Since 1948 Micky Steele-Bodger has personally selected a team of esteemed national and international players to challenge the Blues prior to the upcoming Varsity Match. This 60th anniversary match was no different.
The Steele-Bodger XV provided a big challenge for the Blues and a good preparation for the Varsity Match in two weeks.
The match promised to be the ideal preparation the Blues needed for their forthcoming encounter against Oxford having had an indifferent season thus far.
Indeed the Steele-Bodgers team line-up boasted celebrated individuals such as the Ireland international Kevin Maggs.
As if to emphasise the importance of this match the crowd was treated to the traditional challenge by the Oxford team over the Varsity trophy. Suited players emerged to rapturous applause and even the comic nature of the Cambridge hats and suits in shorts could not detract from the decorous nature of the occasion.
More importantly, with the Oxford team staying to watch the match, Cambridge had a strong incentive to put on an imposing display.
Both teams in the first half were seemingly reluctant to apply continuing pressure on the other side, whilst the second half saw a more aggressive approach employed. As in previous matches, Cambridge took a while to find their feet. However a convincing and fluid performance despite the bitter cold saw a definite evolution that bodes well for the Varsity encounter.
As expected, the game began with both teams playing for territory and employing a kicking game. However, Cambridge struggled to find their rhythm and an early opportunity was squandered after a stray long pass. This was the culmination of a period of pressure which unfortunately bore no results for the home team but stated Cambridge intentions.
Throughout the match, the recurring theme was that of rapid interchange and this saw a Bodgers break resulting in the first try of the match by Watt.
This try prompted the cry, “First blood Bodgers,” a situation which Cambridge would have to rectify rapidly if they were to intimidate their nemeses in the stands. The Cambridge team acquitted themselves admirably, defending solidly and forcing a period of stalemate in which the crowd could contemplate the building confidence of the Blues side.
As if to justify this faith, a sudden burst by James Wellwood from the halfway line, brushing off the challenges of three defenders, set up an easy finish for Hamish Murray. His feet, however, proved less reliable when it came to kicking as he then missed his first conversion and went on a few minutes later to miss a penalty goal from the 22 yard line.
The 31st minute saw yet another Cambridge try, this time from the hands of Andy Stevenson. A welcome half time whistle saw the Blues retire into the relative warmth of the changing rooms with a 10-7 lead.
The appearance of the band to introduce the players back on to the pitch roused both the spectators and the players. It was clear that they had done their job as the Blues stamped their mark on the second half. Joe Clark immediately scored a try underneath the posts, which was followed by the first successful Cambridge conversion of the match.
Two talented Christ’s wingers, Jonny Thompson and Didi Akinluyi, were brought on in the 49th minute,helping to bring the score to 24-7. Even a Bodgers try could not dampen their spirits, immediately responding with one of their own in the 58th minute. The Bodgers by contrast seemed to be a team on the defensive, and whilst they threw all that they had at their opposition, a further Cambridge try sealed the match, with subsequent tries mere formalities.
All in all, Grange Road yesterday witnessed the resurrection of the belief that the Cambridge team can play with cohesion. Oxford had better start training very hard indeed if they are to withstand the confident side they are to face on the 6th of December.
Nick Shah and Duncan Bull