Cambridge lost to Oxford 5-15 in the Varsity women's rugby match at Grange Road last Saturday. Despite the loss, the blistering pace and intensity in the game were testament to the leaps in quality that women's rugby has made every year.
The Light Blues were dominant in the scrum at the start of the match, driving Oxford back at every opportunity. It took some very swift hooking for Oxford to create any scoring chances. However, the Dark Blues' aggression at the breakdown and the calm response of their backs kept them in the game. At half time, despite a phenomenal break from prop Antonia Robbins, the tight match was still scoreless.
Cambridge started the second half determined to take the lead and they eventually created and converted their chance. It started with the backline executing a seamless set of draws and passes. Sammy Graham, coming on after starting on the bench due to injury and with her knee mummified in strapping, drew three Oxford defenders before offloading to Sian McGuiness. Sian had looped starting the move at fly half and powered the ball safely home in the corner to put Cambridge 5-0 up. It was Graham's last Varsity match and she will be sorely missed by CUWRFC, especially with her terrorising tackling. But it is good to see her passing the ball on to Cambridge's future starting line-up.
This elicited a fierce response from Oxford. They attacked back and scored a try in the next few minutes. Cambridge's defence, which has improved throughout the season, lost concentration in a few crucial moments to allow Oxford to score two more tries. Cambridge tried to fight back in the dying moments but Oxford's defence held on to win the match 15-5.
Prior to the start of the women's Blues' match, the Cambridge Tigers squared off against the Oxford Panthers. The match started evenly with both teams determined to stamp their authority. However, Oxford capitalised on their experience in the second half, particularly with their inside centre, a former Blue, pushing the Tigers' defence hard.
Nonetheless, there were moments of excellent individual play from the Tigers. There were several breaks around the side of rucks from Sarah Paige, who continued to shine in her new position at scrum half.
Vice-captain Lizi Ramsay executed the classic play of a flanker pretending to be a back to run home Cambridge's solitary try by sprinting around the Oxford back line. Despite those individual plays, Oxford deservedly won 29-5 with better all-round play.
Although the double loss was disappointing, the effort from Cambridge that was put into both matches deserve recognition.