Cambridge University v Cov Nighthawks – the harder they come…

As the sun will shine
I’m gonna get my share of what’s mine
The harder they come, harder they’ll fall, one and all
Harder they come, harder they’ll fall, one and all

Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come

Tonight’s Nighthawks game against Cambridge University has rightly attracted plenty of interest given the ‘students’ include two experienced internationals in their second row, James Horwill (Australia) and Flip van der Merwe (South Africa), who between them can boast 99 caps.

giphy1.gifAnd against them pack Kailus Hutchinson and Scott Russell. Between the two of the Cov youngsters, they have just 3 starts in the Championship and 3 appearances off the bench.

As mismatches go, you don’t get much bigger than that, but I’d care to bet that the gulf between the Cov lads and their more illustrious opponents won’t be anything like as great as it looks on paper.

As learning curves go, you won’t get much bigger or better – it’s what the Nighthawks games are about and I imagine Louis Deacon will have a watchful eye on how his two young locks perform this evening.

I haven’t seen much of Hutchinson since his return from injury, but before his enforced absence he was looking very promising.

And Russell was one of the standout players for me on Saturday, albeit coming on for an injury to Alex Woolford. He’s yet to have anything but a good game in a Cov shirt.

Behind Hutchinson and Russell, Cov have plenty of experience in the form a strong back row that includes the two Bens, Nutley and Adams, as well as the standout player (for me) for the Nighthawks when they faced Ampthill 1881 in the warm-up to the Bedford game three weeks ago – Freddie Betteridge.

The more I think about it, the more disappointed I am that I won’t be there this evening because it should be an enthralling contest. Cambridge University have only played two games so far, winning both including a close game against Cambridge RUFC, whom we played pre-season (winning 0-35).

 

At home with a side that also included both Horwill and van der Merwe, the Light Blues beat Cambridge 20-19.

Against a much less inexperienced Nighthawks side they will be clear favourites, but that’s not always how it works.

A ‘Hawks win?

Definitely no flight of fancy.

2019 table

Cov will want to dent a few reputations, as well as make a few of their own.

The Hawks’ front row isn’t short of some talent either.

At loosehead is former Wasps’ and Cambridge prop, David Langley, and at tighthead is current try-scoring machine Luc Jeannot. Luc seems to have settled really well at Chinnor and with Gerard Ellis out for a considerable time, I still think we might see Luc back at Cov before the season’s out.

I certainly hope so.

Packing between them is former back rower Sam McNulty who continues in the role of hooker, a positional switch which now seems to be permanent.

All Cov fans will be delighted to see the name Tony Fenner on the team sheet. It must be getting on for 9 months now since he last played a competitive game for Cov and how he’s been missed!

He made a real impression in the games he played in last season and I remember writing at the time that he actually looked even more comfortable in the Championship than he did in National One. He is such a skilful and intelligent footballer, able to slot into 10, 12, 13 and 15 with consummate ease. In some respects I wonder if this has held him back because he is something of a utility player for Cov, ideal to have on the bench to cover pretty much the whole back division. If he were an out and out 10, say, maybe that wouldn’t be the case?

What I can never get my head round when I watch TF is just what a destructive tackler he is. He’s never going to go high and he’ll bring the biggest of players down with a text book tackle. He’s so slight, with a footballer’s build, yet he’ll put in some massive hits.

And there’s the rub, I guess. Fearless he may be, but he has had a run of injuries in the last three years which is a concern.

But a fit, confident, Tony Fenner would be in my match day 23 every time.

2
Nick Walshe presents Tony Fenner with the Coaches’ Player of the Season Award (Photo from Offy Site – no credits?)

No wonder that at the Players’ Awards Dinner earlier this year, Tony Fenner was announced as the Coaches’ Player of the Season, despite playing in only 11 games. Such an accolade is indication, if one was needed, of the importance the coaches attach to TF. I imagine they’ll want him back in the side as soon as he is fit enough.

 

(Nb. At the same Awards’ Evening, Scott Russell picked up the Young Player of the Year Award – and here he now is facing, quite literally, two giants of the game).

I’m hoping the coaches give Fenner perhaps 40-60 minutes maximum on the pitch this evening and if he gets through that and has no after effects tomorrow, we might well see his name in the match day squad for the Bedford game or, failing that, for the Carnegie fixture the week after.

Elsewhere, James Martin starts out wide. He’s already got a good scoring record for Cambridge and might well be one to watch in the months to come and with Rob Povey (on loan at Moseley, I think) at 15 and Lewis and Flinn at half back, Cambridge University will definitely be stretched at times, provided Cov can win enough ball.

And if Morgan Dayes is the same player who came on against Moseley in the pre-season friendly for us and made in-roads into the Moseley defence in the final quarter, then Cambridge will certainly have their work cut out!

A bit of a punt here – I think this is the lad…(if it’s not, it’s still worth a watch!).

And then there’s Louis Beer and Cameron Sharpe  (both of whom had stormers in the Ampthill game), Max Titchener, Fin Creighton (who blitzed Cov a couple of times when he played against us for Cambridge) et al.

The bench is packed with pace and agility.

This is a pretty strong looking Nighthawks side, despite its relative inexperience.

It should be a really interesting game – hopefully, a few highlights will appear on social media or on the official website.

Me, I’m looking forward to following the game via Twitter… 🙂

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James Horwill and Flip van der Merwe …

The harder they come, harder they’ll fall, one and all
Harder they come, harder they’ll fall, one and all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Tim

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