Oxford in blemished win
Oxford won their fourth successive Varsity match at Twickenham, beating Cambridge 33-15, and yet it may well be one they would rather forget.
Oxford won the Varsity match at Twickenham on Thursday, beating Cambridge 33-15, Oxford's fourth successive victory, and yet it may well be one they would rather forget.
The Varsity match has been played 132 times since 1872 but this is the first time that a player has been sent from the field for foul play.
The player was Sam Egerton, Oxford's hero in 2012. At a tackle/ruck he was seen raking crooked fingers up the face of Cambridge's Nick Viljoen who was lying on the ground at the time. The fingers made contact with the area of Viljoen's eyes. The referee watched the incident on the big screen at the stadium and did not hesitate to show Egerton a red card. It certainly was a blemish on a victory that Oxford so fully deserved.
For the last 30 minutes of the match, Oxford played with 14 men and yet there never seemed the slightest chance of a Cambridge victory, such was the domination of Oxford where it counted.
It counted most at scrums. In the first half Oxford put the ball into only a single scrum, but it did not matter. Cambridge put the ball into seven scrums. They lost one and were penalised three times. Altogether in the match they were penalised at six scrums. They were simply no match for the Oxford pack. But then seven of the Oxford forwards had played in 2012. Oxford were certainly favourites for they had 13 Blues back from 2012. The non-Blues were Jacob Taylor, a New South Wales Rhodes Scholar who had been the vice-captain of Australia's Sevens team, and tighthead prop Ian Williams. The favourites did not disappoint, but give Cambridge their due. Deprived of first-phase ball they tackled with dedication and energetically contested the tackle area.
Before the singing of the national anthem, the teams lined up to pay silent respect to Nelson Mandela.
Oxford destroyed the first Cambridge scrum but Jonathan Hudson, a Swiss international, missed the penalty and instead it was Cambridge who scored. Oxford were freekicked at a scrum and Cambridge tapped and went through phases till Tom May gave Nick Jones a perfect pass and the right wing just managed to get the ball down right in the corner, a try which the TMO confirmed. From touch, Donald Stevens, a firmer Stellenbosch scrumhalf but playing as a stocky, baldheaded flyhalf for Cambridge, converted brilliantly from touch. 7-0 after 7 minutes.
Not long after this flank Max Mather was helped off the field, replaced by Charlie O'Sullivan.
A scrum gave Oxford their first score. Cambridge were penalised five metres from their line and Oxford opted for scrum instead of a simple kick at goal. They rushed the Cambridge pack back over their line with the ball at John Carter's feet. When Carter fell on the ball it was over the line. 7-5, and then Stevens kicked a long penalty goal. 10-5 after 20 minutes. But then Cambridge lost Stevens. He acrobatically saved the ball from a long kick, James Harris dived on him when he was on the ground and Stevens went off, leaving the field with his arm in a sling made from his jersey.
Oxford attacked, Matt Janney, back from Russia broke and Michael Rickner charged ahead, as he did several times in the match. The ball went left where Hudson gave to Henry Lamont near the touchline. He was hemmed in by Cambridge players but charged past five of them to score far out. 10-10 after 39 minutes.
On 34 minutes, Harris was taken off on a mobile stretcher and Zandy Macdonald took his places, thereby becoming the fourth of his family to win a Blue at Oxford. He celebrated his arrival with a strong run.
Just before half-time Hudson, who had not had his kicking boots on, goaled a penalty and at the break the Dark Blues led 13-10.
Oxford attacked, taking a tighthead off them at their first scrum of the half, and then thumping at the Cambridge line. They went right - Egerton to Lewis Anderson who gave back to Egerton on a run around and the scrumhalf broke clean through the defence. 20-10.
Egerton was then sent off and Oxford went on with eight forwards and Lamont at scrumhalf.
Carter charged down a clearing kick by Harry Peck. The hairy No.8 recovered the ball and kept it in play. Oxford thumped at the line till hooker Nick Gardner scraped over under would-be tackles. 27-10 after 61 minutes.
Cambridge attacked with Nick Jones racing down the tight. They bashed at the Oxford line and prop Will Yeeles was over the line, but held up. That gave Cambridge a five-mater scrum. Oxford shoved the back quickly but somehow they got the ball back. Under heavy pressure Sam Farmer got the ball to Peck who gave to May who cut inside two defenders and dived over as Carter tackled him. 27-15 with 14 minutes to play.
Hudson kicked two penalty goals and when Taylor passed to his left Russian Ilia Cherezov intercepted and raced down the right. Matthew Shorthose caught him and when Cambridge lost the ball near the Oxford line Hudson kicked raggedly out to end the match.
That made it four in a row for Oxford, equalling the feat of 1948-51. But on three occasions Cambridge has won five in a row - 1972-76. 1980-84 and 1994-98.
Tries: Carter, Hughes, Egerton, Gardner
Cons: Hudson 2
Pens: Hudson 3
Tries: Jones, May
Oxford: 15 Jacob Taylor (Keble), 14 Henry Hughes (Magdalen), 13 Matt Janney (Oriel), 12 Gav Turner (Kellogg), 11 Henry Lamont (New), 10 Jonathan Hudson (Lincoln), 9 Samson Egerton (Keble), 8 John Carter (Kellogg) (captain), 7 Gus Jones (St Catherine’s), 6 James Harris (Kellogg), 5 Michael Rickner (St Anne’s), 4 Will Rowlands (Pembroke), 3 Ian Williams (Kellogg), 2 Nick Gardner (Lincoln), 1 Lewis Anderson (Trinity)
Replacements: 16 Fraser Heathcote (St Edmund Hall), 17 James Wisson (St Anne’s), 18 Hamish Macdonald (Wadham), 19 Tom Reeson-Price (St John’s), 20 Graeme MacGilchrist (University), 21 Matthew Shorthose (University), 22 Alexander Macdonald (St Peter’s), 23 Edward Doe (Kellogg)
Cambridge: 15 Toby May (Homerton), 14 Nick Jones (Selwyn ), 13 Courtenay Morrison (Hughes), 12 Kristian Cooke (Hughes), 11 Andy Murdoch (Hughes), 10 Donald Stevens (St Edmund's), 9 Harry Peck (Homerton), 8 Sam Farmer (Wolfson), 7 Andrew Smith (Churchill), 6 Max Mather (Downing), 5 Jack Baker (St John's), 4 Scott Annett (Clare), 3 Frank Sanders (Magdalene), 2 Tom Pascoe (St John's), 1 Will Briggs (captain) (Magdalene)
Replacements: 16 Patrick Calvert (St John's), 17 Will Yeeles (Robinson), 18 Sam Alderson (Goneville and Caius), 19 Nick Viljoen (Jesus), 20 Charlie O’Sullivan (Homerton), 21 Ilia Cherezov (St John's ), 22 Andrew Abrahams (Homerton), 23 James Boyd-Moss (Fitzwilliam)
Referee: Matthew Carley