The Daily Mail, October 27, 1913
A BLESSING IN
By P. G. WODEHOUSE.
Harlequins ... 17pts. Cambridge ...... 10
As far as the conservation of their unbeaten record was concerned it was unfortunate for Cambridge that they should have found the Harlequins at the very top of their form on Saturday. I have had occasion this season to fling certain brick-bats at the Twickenhamites: but to-day I beg them to accept the finest bouquet I can bestow. Forward and outside, they were great at Cambridge. If Berney made one or two mistakes he did any amount of good things, and the rest of the outsides were brilliant. Birkett’s try was one of those irresistible efforts of his, when he seems to be about three times as big and twice as fast as anyone has any right to be. He went through the ’Varsity defence like a snow-plough.
It was the forwards who really won the match by their superiority in the lines-out from touch. They nearly always got the ball, and, owing to the slowness at the tackle of most of the Cambridge pack, were able to get it out to the three-quarters.
LIGHT BLUES CRITICISED.
We now come to the careful consideration of the Cambridge fifteen, who by this time have realised that, as far as the ’Varsity match is concerned, Saturday’s defeat was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to them. Before the season opened, everybody had been saying that here at last was a super-’Varsity team, and conveying the idea that it would be a mere formality for Cambridge to go to Queen’s Club at all. Now, as Mr. Kipling has it,
“The tumult and the shouting dies,”
and we are at liberty to take a steady look at this international-studded bevy of collegiate students.
What do we find? We find that Cambridge is threatened by the same malady which until lately crippled Chelsea. Chelsea was the eleven of all the talents, yet inferior teams, simply by virtue of being teams, defeated them. So with Cambridge. Discharge a shot gun at random at the Cambridge fifteen and you will bring down a great individual performer. But, until the Light Blues get together, they will do nothing. They are excellent in parts. The front row of the scrum does its job admirably; the back row refuse to let the ball out. There is too much kicking. The centres, though excellent individually, hold on too long.
Cumberlege and Lewis are divided by seas of misunderstanding. Perhaps it is this last defect which of all needs remedying most. It kills any attempt at combined attack. Cumberlege is playing better then he has ever played, but at present, while he thinks that a fly half should be here, Lewis holds that it should be there. The consequence is that the ball falls down, and the enemy rush it fifty yards before they can be stopped.
Cambridge are jerky. The rag-time epidemic, perhaps.
When Symington comes back, the forwards will be good. Doherty is the pick of the 1913 crop. A fearless worker, Doherty, one who would rather be kicked in the face than not, and is always in the thick of things, starting something. Vintcent is another good newcomer. Of the old brigade, Greenwood, trained to a hair by his Saturday sprints through the City to catch the Cambridge train, is as great as ever. A few more hard games like that against the Harlequins will give the Light Blue pack its 1912 form.
THE GAME DESCRIBED.
Roberts got to work very early on Saturday with a dribble to the Cambridge line. A long punt by Wood found touch near half-way, and then Thorne, with a sensational run, got right through. He just lacked the pace to keep ahead and score, and was brought down within a yard of the line. An attack by the Harlequin three-quarters was answered by a Cambridge forward rush to half way. Roberts then dribbled to the line and Lewis touched down. The game went up and down the field, the Harlequins, by virtue of excellent forward work, having the larger share of it. Following on a touch-down by Wallace, Stoop nearly dropped a goal, and a few moments later Tripp made a still better attempt. Wood, Thorne, and Lewis attacked in turn, and with the game near half way Cumberlege only just failed to drop a penalty goal with a splendid kick. From another penalty in almost the same place a minute later, he again nearly succeeded, but the ball dropped just short of the bar. Then, from near half way, Roberts broke through and finished a long run by dropping a neat goal.
The next try came very quickly. A brilliant movement by the Harlequin outsides was only stopped on the line, and Lambert, rushing through when the ball was on the ground, kicked over and touched down in the corner, a good bit of work. He failed to convert.
The drop-out left the ball in the Cambridge half, where Thorne got off with a great dribble, which ended in touch a couple of yards from the Harlequins’ line. The Harlequin forwards returned to the Cambridge half, but a splendid run by Cumberlege took Cambridge to the line again. Birkett relieved with a long punt. Vintcent dribbled back to half-way. Lewis ran into the Harlequin “twenty-five,” where Thorne tried to drop a goal. Berney touched down, Cambridge now pressed, but were held up by the slowness in heeling of the back row of their scrum; and, after some energetic loose play, a bad pass by Will let Lambert through. He kicked the ball away from Lowe, who was trying to pick it up after Will’s pass, gathered it, and, running round Wallace, grounded it behind the posts. Lambert converted.
Cambridge, 12 points down, now rallied in fine style. Within a minute of the kick-off, Wood was off with perhaps the best individual run of the day. He swerved in and out to within a few feet of the line, and in the subsequent proceedings the Harlequins were penalised for off-side, and Thorne placed an easy goal.
Fielding the ball from the kick-off, Will ran right through and, when near the line, punted. A scrum followed, and Lowe, receiving on the right touch-line, nipped through and tried to get round on the left. Here he passed to Will. Will failed to gather, but Wood, who was now playing on the wing to Will’s centre owing to an injury to his shoulder, picked up and dropped a grand goal.
BIRKETT TURNS THE TIDE.
At this point it seemed as if Cambridge had the game in their hands. They were only 3 points behind, there was plenty of time left for play, and they had struck a remarkable vein of brilliance. But Birkett turned the tide. Pouncing on the ball near half-way with the fury of a pheasant swooping down on a mangold wurzel, he behaved in the manner related earlier in this narrative. When Birkett really gets going like this there is no stopping him. He scored behind the posts, and Lambert’s kick put the Harlequins in that happy position when the other side have got to score twice to win.
That this had been but a momentary lull in the Cambridge onslaught was proved almost immediately. They instantly began to press again, and Lewis tried to drop a goal. Greenwood reached the Harlequins’ “twenty-five” with a dribble, and Wood was nearly through when he slipped. Berney touched down. A good run by Lewis took the ball to the line, where Doherty nearly forced his way over. From the scrum that followed Cumberlege swung the ball out wide to Lowe, who dodged through to the line and passed to Thorne, who dashed over. Thorne failed to convert.
A peculiar incident occurred soon after this. The Cambridge forwards had forced their opponents to the line, packing tight and keeping the ball in, after the fashion of last year’s ’Varsity match. Arriving at the line, they fell on the ball in a body, Blair being the actual individual to touch down. Unfortunately a Harlequin had at that moment got off-side, and the referee had blown his whistle for a free-kick. So Cambridge were, in fact, penalised for the enemy’s infringement, for the kick at goal failed.
For the remainder of the game Cambridge pressed, but Wood had the misfortune to drop three passes in quick succession at the end of promising movements. A good attempt at a dropped goal by Cumberlege failed, and Berney touched down. The game ended in the Harlequins’ half.
Twickenhamites: The Harlequin Rugby Football Club was based at Twickenham Stadium (built 1907–1909) at this time, not to be confused with its home at Twickenham Stoop stadium since 1963.
’Varsity match; Queen’s Club: see notes to “The Fascinating Mr. Lowe”
the tumult and the shouting dies: Kipling, “Recessional”
excellent in parts: a sideways reference to the classic curate’s egg joke
Doherty: William David “George” Doherty (1893–1966) played rugby and boxed at Dulwich College, then studied medicine at Cambridge, where he joined Greenwood and Lowe in the 1913 ’Varsity team (see notes to “The Fascinating Mr. Lowe”). He later captained rugby teams for Ireland, Surrey, United Hospitals, and Guy’s Hospital, where he got his medical diploma in 1920.