Light Blues suffer great fall as all of Guinness-Kings’ men couldn’t put it together
The Cambridge squads will return to Cambridge empty handed tomorrow, after the U21s and the Blues suffered crushing defeats.
With a considerable chunk of the Oxford team consisting of returning Blues, they were going in as the favourites but it was clear from the first 10 minutes that this was going to be a fiercely contested match.
With some thin sleet sweeping across the field and the floodlights the match began with a Light Blues kick. They quickly earned themselves a line-out which then became a maul.
Cambridge were awarded a penalty and Steve Townend stepped up to open the scoring within the first three minutes. Cambridge had come out of the blocks fighting but there was little between the two teams.
The Dark Blues were straight back on the attack, and a fantastic kick down the field led to a Cambridge line-out on the Light Blue try line. The catch was fluffed and Oxford made the most of their opportunity, eventually mauling their way over the line with Will Kane getting the ball down.
Cassian Braham-Law Made a great conversion with an arrow-like kick between the posts and it was 7-3 to Oxford.
Some great tackling from captain Matt Guinness-King, who was obviously keen to shake off the injury-break cobwebs for his farewell performance, put Cambridge back on the offensive.
However, Oxford were the next to score 17 minutes in, Cassian Bramham-Law taking them further ahead to 10-3 with a penalty kick.
There was a dangerous-looking run from Oxford number 12 Gavin Turner as he darted in between the Light Blues, but Cambridge eventually managed to bring him down. In turn, Turner was the one making the tackles, bringing down Captain Guinness-King in dramatic fashion.
Cambridge were finding it hard to make any ground and it was Oxford who were making the breaks forward.
A great pick-up from Tom O’Toole and a succession of kicks suddenly took the ball over the line for Cambridge, but the video referee was consulted and the decision of no try came back.
Cambridge, newly re-energised, managed to push the resulting scrum forwards until Oxford collapsed at the back. A penalty try was awarded to Cambridge and Townend converted without difficulty to put the Blues back on even terms at 10-10.
It wasn’t before long before Bramham-Law once again irked the Light Blues with another penalty, making it 13-10.
Tensions between the squads were mounting as the first half clock ticked down, further animosity on display in the scuffles that were breaking out here and there.
A penalty for Cambridge gave Townend a chance to level the score before half-time, but he missed, and the crowd counted down the time to send Oxford into the break with their noses ahead.
The players emerged invigorated after the interval, both teams determined to turn the game in their favour. However, it was Oxford who had the better of the opening phases, number 14 Morris using his pace to break through and fire a warning shot to the Light Blues.
The Dark Blues were starting to build some pressure and, despite some gallant defence, it appeared that a try was inevitable. Soon it emerged, courtesy of a powerful drive where man of the match Karl Outen was able to touch down. Although Bramham-Law missed the conversion the score now read 18-10 to his side.
Cambridge had failed to get into the second half so far and although their supporters tried hard to rally them the tide was turning against their players.
Right wing Morris looked lively each time he gained possession, the Dark Blue supporters sensing something exciting when he ran with the ball.
When Bramham Law scored a penalty to make the score 21-10, Oxford could smell the scent of victory. Cambridge desperately attempted to alter the pattern of play, willing to take risks. One such ploy almost resulted in disaster when Rob Stevens was caught with the ball 5 meters in front of his try line but fortunately for him the danger was averted.
Guinness-King’s men tried to force their way back into the contest, running hard in midfield but each time they appeared on the verge of a break they were met with a wall of Dark Blue. Oxford hunted and hounded in defence, forbidding the Cambridge backline to really break through.
Like a tribal leader Carter marshalled his troops, leading from the front with well timed hits while Karl Outen ensured that the forwards kept Cambridge’s efforts at bay.
Oxford’s Asbun charged down a kick from Cambridge, almost resulting in a try scoring chance; Mitchell missed a drop goal for the Dark Blues; their backs almost latched onto a few half chances. Cambridge continued to fight back, seeking in vain for a way through.
Mitchell sealed the result for Oxford. A little step and he was clear through, sliding over the line. Conversion made by Janney and, at 28-10, the task was too great a one for Cambridge to tackle.
After ringing the substitutions the Light Blues produced a few more flowing moves, running better lines and switching the play quicker. Loudon tried a kick over the top which almost bounced kindly while Allen attempted to tap and go quickly from a penalty. Yet neither effort was able to penetrate the battering ram of the Oxford defence.
Despite a promising first half from Cambridge in the second Oxford were the stronger outfit. Perhaps the pressure of the occasion got to some of the squad-with an attendance of 27255 this was an environment few players would have experienced before. Perhaps the squad wasn’t quite balanced correctly. Perhaps the substitutions should have been introduced earlier. Perhaps it was down to focus.
The enthusiasm from both sides was evident throughout but in the end, Oxford’s clinical edge earned them their biggest win since 1988. Captain Guinness-King was obviously disappointed about the defeat and said that it was down to Cambridge letting their attention slide.
“There was 10 or 15 minutes where we just kind of went to sleep,” he said.
“Oxford were able to sustain their level of play for the full 80 minutes. In the second half they just continued to get stronger and stronger, and I think that was the main difference.”
He was still pleased with the season and added that he couldn’t have had a better group of guys to finish his career playing next to.
Olivia Lee & Ollie Guest