Cambridge Women Dominant in 24-0 Varsity Triumph

Lewis Thomas 7 December 2017
Image Credit: Lewis Thomas

The Women’s Varsity Match: Cambridge – 24 Oxford – 0


In a far cry from last year’s 3-0 defeat, Cambridge scored four tries to run away with victory on Thursday. The match started with Oxford piling the pressure on the Light Blues, the ball remaining deep in the Cambridge half for most of the first forty minutes with only the odd breakaway threatening the Oxford back line, invariably downed before the Cambridge attack could cause too much trouble. In this phase, Smart (Oxford, 14) was everywhere, probing the Cambridge defence and occasionally bursting for a gap. The same happened with Dombrowski (10) and Collis (5), who gave the Light Blue defence some headache before being downed in turn.


Oxford probed, Cambridge held. The stalemate continued until Kelly scored for Cambridge, with Middleton slotting it through the posts to make it 7-0 at halftime.


Or so we thought. Not content with a 7-0 lead, Captain Gibson streaked through a gap on Oxford’s right, blazing through the Dark Blue half to score. The ball went through the posts, and the first half ended 14-0 to Cambridge. The Light Blues had the edge, and Oxford had forty minutes to turn it around. The first half had been like water soaking through a paper bag – nothing, until it all came out in a flood and the points shot onto the board.


At this point, the game was still in the balance – indeed post-match, Oxford Captain Sophie Began admitted that it was still “definitely winnable” at the halfway stage. This optimism failed to bear fruit.


The second half began with a monsoon, rain sweeping across the pitch and the stadium ringing to the sound of drops smashing against the roof. Fans in the open seating made a break for the covered areas, almost matching the players for speed. The fans deserve a mention – they may not have turned out in large numbers, but they more than made up for it in noise. The stands were speckled with Blue (of both shades), and some bright spark of an Oxford fan managed to bring along a drum – as the Oxford Ultras chanted from their seats, the roll of the drum filled the stadium. Not to be outdone, a Cambridge chorus struck up with “Everywhere We Go…”, giving the match the air of a Scout Hut for a brief moment.


The rain eased off, and play began to flow. Cambridge took the fight to Oxford, seeking to capitalise on their momentum from the first half. There were fourteen points on the board; after a long slog up the pitch, Marks scored and made it 19. It was almost over – the stalemate had been broken, and Oxford were staring at defeat. Would they snatch a glorious victory from the jaws of ignominious defeat?


No. Nicholls ended the match with a try for Cambridge, bringing it to 24-0. Oxford pushed, but failed to score. The whistle went; the Light Blues had achieved a resounding victory.


So what happened? Oxford showed grit and determination throughout the match, and made Cambridge fight for the ball and territory. As Began remarked, “We kept going.” This was backed up by Woman of the Match Chloe Withers (Cambridge), who observed that “we had to fight the whole way.”


While this Oxford side won’t be taking home any silverware today, they fought well, they never flagged, never let up, and went into the eightieth minute with the same spirit of determination and ambition that they went into the first. They played like people who love their game, and know its spirit.


Cambridge were “dominant in aggression”, as Gibson put it. The Light Blues went in with a fearless will to win, and kept it up throughout the match. Asked about her try, Gibson seemed barely able to believe her luck. “I had no idea… I just sped up,” she laughed. And boy did she. These two factors – determination and moments of individual quality – sum up the Cambridge success. It was a stalemate at times. But at those moments when the stalemate broke, we saw flashes of brilliance from both teams. The Light Blues leave the trophy – both teams leave their pride.