Cambridge worked tirelessly and at times held their own in this year’s Varsity fixture at Twickenham, but could not prevent Oxford from recording their fifth consecutive victory in this event. The Dark Blues also achieved the highest victory margin in Varsity history in the process, cashing in on a tiring Cambridge defence late on to win by forty-three points to six.
This year’s game held special significance. The fifty-five Blues who lost their lives during the Great War were remembered with a fitting tribute consisting of a minute’s silence and the playing of the Last Post by a lone trumpet.
The Light Blues almost found success with a driving maul early on, but the referee blew for an infringement at the breakdown. Cambridge then found themselves behind when Sam Egerton suddenly raced through two missed tackles, threw a clever dummy, and dived over in front of the travelling supporters. What a difference a year makes. In this fixture last season, Egerton became the first man to be sent off in the history of Varsity Rugby after an ugly off the ball incident. Today he scored the opening try in a game which means so much to both sides.
Cambridge looked to respond immediately and did indeed begin to gain a foothold in the game. Don Stevens and George Cullen exchanged penalties, before the former added another three points to leave the game delicately balanced, with Oxford leading 10-6 after half an hour.
Perhaps the most crucial moment of the game came just before the break when, after some heroic defending just metres from their own line, the Light Blues were unable to prevent centre Alexander Macdonald from driving over the line, allowing Oxford to take a 17-6 advantage into the interval.
The second period undoubtedly belonged to Oxford. After Stevens was stretchered off with what Blues’ captain Harry Peck later admitted could be knee ligament damage, Oxford ran in four tries to make the score line emphatic.
Oxford captain Jacob Taylor attributed the win to the dominance of his pack, as well as their defensive superiority allowing them to take advantage of their attacking opportunities. “We’ve been blessed with a really tight group for the last few years,” added the full-back, praising the cohesion within his side.
Such togetherness was obvious when Tom Reeson-Price crossed the whitewash after a fine pass by Macdonald out of the back of his hand after his side had worked the ball cleverly around the corner. Ian Williams bundled the ball over from close range shortly afterwards to put the result firmly beyond the reach of Cambridge, who have now not won the senior fixture at Twickenham since 2009.
Harry Peck, the Cambridge captain, was in a reflective mood as he met journalists after the game. “There were really encouraging moments,” said the Homerton scrum-half, “but we didn’t necessarily capitalise on them…Oxford are very clinical, when they had an opportunity they took it.” Indeed they were. Further tries from the excellent fly-half George Cullen, who shrugged off a tackle before scoring in the left-hand corner and Gus Jones, allowed Oxford to punish Cambridge, the final score providing a more damning assessment than Cambridge perhaps deserved.
Asked what the effects of such a damaging result might be, Peck suggested the game might have the opposite effect on the Cambridge side to that one might expect: “The boys put everything into it,” he said “that could go on to define them as characters and individuals.”
Cambridge will return to Twickenham next year in the hope of preventing Oxford from achieving yet another record. No team has ever won six Varsity games on spin in the history of the event.
PHOTO: James Pearson