Oxford Victorious As Cambridge Disappoint

Oxford put in disciplined performance to beat Cambridge 21-10 at Twickenham in the Varsity Match.

Oxford 21- 10 Cambridge

A determined second-half fightback from Cambridge failed to stop the Dark Blues from completing a comfortable 21-10 victory, only their second Varsity win in the last 6 years.

The absences of Sandy Reid and Dan Vickerman proved telling, as The Light Blues’ backs and forwards often appeared devoid of leadership and direction.

Their opponents, on the other hand, marshalled by the impressive Nick Haydon at scrum-half, delivered a clinical and organised performance to carve out a convincing victory.

The game began tentatively, as both sides made handling errors that unfortunately were to pervade the match.

The physicality and commitment of the teams was, however, never in doubt, as both sets of forwards fought viciously for superiority at the breakdown.

The first 20 minutes saw the sides separated by a single penalty, courtesy of the calm boot of Charles Marr, as Oxford led 3-0.

However, the game was brought into life by the vision of Haydon, unleashing a move down the blind-side. With the Cambridge defence stretched, Oxford seized upon the opportunity, hurling the ball to powerful centre Alex Cheesman, who is hoping to take up a contract with professional outfit London Wasps next year.

Cheeseman simply shrugged off a despairing tackle from Rob Stevens to dive over for the score. With the conversion slotted over Oxford, seemingly from nowhere, had an imposing 10-0 lead.

Centre Fred Burdon provided some of Cambridge’s brighter moments. Photos by Tim Sherrington.

Cambridge looked shocked, and failed to strike back quickly and regain the momentum. Oxford on the other hand were precise and efficient. Barely five minutes later Oxford struck again, turning over a quickly taken penalty by Sam Hunt and unleashing the backs.

Sensing the danger, Burdon took a risk and burst from the defensive line, but failed to bring down the powerful Cheesman, who was able to off-load to Crozier, who gratefully ran in for a simple score.

Although the conversion was missed, at 15-0 Cambridge were desperately in need of a foothold in the game. Awarded a penalty 40 yards out, Richards made a horrible mess of the kick, and Cambridge spirits visibly sank.

With half-time near, the forwards began to assert their superiority at the scrum, winning several penalties as a result. Sustained pressure on the Oxford line eventually resulted in a simple penalty opportunity for Richards, who gratefully accepted. Nevertheless, with the scoreline at 15-3, it was clear Cambridge had to dig deep in the second half.

It was Oxford however who began positively, attacking the line at pace and posing problems for the Cambridge defence.

A streaker provides a rare moment of relief for the Light Blue fans. Photos by Tim Sherrington.

The Light Blues refused to buckle, their tenacity in the contact area eventually forcing a turnover. Finally, they began to string some phases together, but handling errors from Cushing and Loudon undermined their attacking intent.

A darting break from Stevens and good off-loading saw them perilously close to the Oxford line, and with penalty advantage beckoning, the ball was flung wide for what seemed a glorious try, only to be disallowed for a forward pass by captain Richards.

The Cambridge forwards however sensed blood, and ramped up the pressure in the resulting scrums. Oxford’s repeated collapsing led the referee to awarded a penalty try, easily converted by Richards.

Cambridge’s front row out performed their Dark Blue opposite numbers – the tight three of Niall Conlon, Stuart Brown and Jamie Gilbert, dominated Oxford in the scrum compartment throughout. Indeed the scrum proved to be Cambridge’s most potent weapon on the day.

With the match tantalisingly poised at 15-10, Cambridge sensed an opportunity, and played their best rugby of the match. Burdon in particular always threatened in the centres, running excellent lines and remaining strong in the tackle.

Cambridge fly-half Greg Cushing tries to escape Oxford’s tacklers. Photos by Tim Sherrington.

Again, however, they were let down by simply, unnecessary mistakes, with fly half Greg Cushing, after excellent performances in recent weeks, failing to keep his composure under pressure. Jimmy Richards mixed flashes of brilliance with uncharacteristic mistakes, and after he ran riot last year Oxford marked him well this time around, a tactic that paid off.

The Cambridge crowd were cheered up considerably however, when a presumably cold streaker wearing a Cambridge scarf cavorted around the pitch for a good couple of minutes, much to the amusement of the players. The stewards, to the streakers surprise, seemed to do absolutely nothing, and after a couple of lengths of the field, presumably a bit tired and cold, the streaker took himself off, almost handing himself into the Twickenham security.

After play resumed, however, an Oxford penalty left Cambridge 10 minutes in which to score twice, and with time running out their play became increasingly desperate.

Stevens made another break down the left wing, but after encouraging build-up play a poor pass was thrown and the ball was lost. Oxford were able to keep possession in the final minutes, scoring another penalty kick from the calm boot of Marr, who managed his backs excellently throughout the game.

With the match ebbing away, the Light Blues suffered the blow of Gilbert suffering a fractured ankle, and after a strong performance from the Cambridge hooker it was a shame to see him leave the field before the conclusion.

As the clock edged over 80 minutes, it was fittingly left to Haydon to crash the ball out of play to seal his side’s deserved victory, having played and led excellently throughout the match.

Oxford celebrate their win. Photos by Tim Sherrington.

A disappointed Cambridge side will reflect ultimately on what might have been. In truth, Oxford won the battle at the breakdown, were given better structure by their half-backs, and executed their chances more clinically than Cambridge.

Tom Harrington and Ben Maidment put in strong performances, but in open play the other forwards were quiet in comparison to their opposite numbers. Whilst Haydon and Marr controlled the structure of the Oxford game and kicked intelligently from hand, Cambridge’s half-backs were unable to impose themselves upon the match.

The backs undoubtedly missed Sandy Reid, but were given few opportunities to express themselves in open play and run some of the moves that have been so successful throughout the season.

Man of the Match, Dark Blue Number 8 Stan McKeen dominated the breakdown alongside his flankers, and particularly in the first half, Cambridge saw very little ball. The back-line in particular seemed to lack a figure to lead as Cheesman did for Oxford, and Loudon, through no fault of his own, looked out of position at inside centre.

It was ultimately however a strong performance from Oxford, and too many silly mistakes, that cost Cambridge the match. Richards tried manfully from full-back, but was unable to have the same influence he had on last year’s match. Cambridge were unable to take their chances and capitalise on their possession in the second half, and will now rue what could have been.

Oxford skipper Nick Haydon lifts the Varsity trophy. Photos by Tim Sherrington.

In the post match press conference Cambridge coach Tony Rogers and Captain Jimmy Richards were extremely downbeat. Richards said that the loss was ‘heartbreaking’, although he added that his team ‘never stopped believing’. Rogers on the other hand lamented that Oxford ‘won the majority of the collisions’ adding that ‘silly mistakes meant we could not play as we can do’. Both graciously consented that Oxford were the better team and deserved their win.

Oxford Captain Nick Haydon was, on the other hand, predictably bullish. He told the press that although they had had less good results throughout the season, ‘we had played harder teams, but that only meant we were more prepared, and it showed.’ Haydon gave the press an insight into the Oxford mindset before the games, saying: ‘we knew we were the underdogs, but that only enabled us to pull together better so we could express ourselves more.’

Oxford coach Murray Haydon also emphasised Oxford’s ‘team spirit’, and although his contract has expired with Oxford, he confirmed that he wants to return for next year.

Alex Cheeseman, after the game, fuelled speculation about his future, saying: ‘I’d like to become a professional when I’ve finished at university. I was with Wasps’ academy before I went to university and I had a stint at Sale Sharks last season. But I’m going to train with Wasps in the summer with a view to something next season. They are my local club and I support them.’

Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards, who was watching in the stands however, refused to speak about any future contracts with any player.

Oxford wore black armbands as a tribute to Peter Henderson, father of head coach Murray, who died in New Zealand last week. ‘It was very satisfying to put a performance out like that for the coaches, especially Murray,’ said Nick Haydon in his final words before he started celebrating with his team.

In the other match of the day, the Light Blue 21s beat their Oxford counterparts 20-5 in a commanding performance.

  • rich mason fan

    HE HAS A MASSIVE PENIS

  • Streaker

    It was really really cold, that's my excuse anyway!

  • Mitch Rason

    check out my mandingo..

  • jaa

    who is the streaker?

  • Shuai Zhang

    That streaker has a tiny penis. I however am very well hung (and stacked)

    • …..

      What is the point of this comment?

      • Shuai Zhang

        Oh and I just got a job offer from a top investment bank. The point is, to quote American rapper T.I. , 'You ain't bullshit if you ain't me'.

        • So…

          you are bullshit if you are you?

  • aaa

    land economy needs to accept more "graduates" rugby player next year!!!

  • johnian

    this is all Lexi Abrams' fault

  • LightBlue

    Cushing and Richards had shocking games. They are normally very good, but they both had nightmares. As did our jesus like forward who couldn't catch the ball. And the normally fleet footed Burden had a quiet game. Stevens was the only cambridge player who proved to be any real danger. The other boys just didn't turn up….. very dissappointing.

    • Jesus like forward

      The jesus like forward was awesome

  • Average

    Jesus Christ: That streaker has a fucking massive schlong. I'd be interested to know the measurements…. both flaccid and erect. Don't be shy.

  • Sports Fan

    The front row were the only ones who really acquitted themselves well – the scrum was dominant. Oxford describe the penalty try as "controversial" on their website – bullshit. The only controversial element was that it wasn't awarded about 4 infringements earlier. The Cambridge 9, 10 and 12 were all very poor. LightBlue mentions Burden having a quiet game but the ball barely made it that far along the back line.

    • LightBlue

      True

  • dark blue

    if you play soft as shit teams before the big game you'll always get beaten up on the day.
    oxford were battle hardened and didn't bottle it. cambridge were toilet

    • Tru dat

      Very true. Cambridge University is rubbish and just kinda proved it again.

      • Oxford are crap

        Oh f off, we kicked your butts at everything last year.

        Oh and by the by, we're the best university in the world, you're only the 6th. Suck it.

        • Tru dat

          Hahaha. You think I go to Oxford? You're all Oxbridge losers to me. Anglia Ruskin all the way.

          • ILikeToSing

            Your dad washes my dad's car, doo dah, doo dah

            Your dad washes my dad's car, all the doo dah day,…..

            • Tru dat

              Hahahah. Keep going. This is exactly why the wider world thinks you're a bunch of pricks.

      • Not Tru Dat

        Top of the world, having a laugh!
        Top of the world, having a laugh…..

        • Tru dat

          They see me trolling, they hating,
          patrolling they trying to catch me riding dirty.

  • Accurate Reporting?

    good of you to get the U21 score completely wrong. it would have been some coincidence for both matches to have ended in exactly opposite scores.

  • guest

    cushing had a shocker, i really felt sorry for him.

  • let down

    why was cambridge 10 so shit?!

  • rugby player

    Cambridge deserved the penalty try purely for being so dominant. Both teams were cheating in the front rows (trust me, I was there), but referees nowadays seem to know f all about the scrum.

    • dark blue

      i agree you deserved the penalty try for the scrum ( i was there too, but a bit further out). the problem was your ten couldn't make the most of the dominant ball you had. also, why didn't you go for the scrum more instead of kicking all your penalties to touch or fluffing the shot at goal?

  • Guest

    really you think you know better than the refs?
    get over yourselves.

  • Guest

    everyone from cambridge is literally a shit.
    except charlie gilmour.

  • David Riley

    The only reason Cambridge lost is because I wasn't playing. I would have changed the game. I also have boyish good looks and a large, circumcised penis

    • James Greenwood

      agreed, if we were playing the outcome would have been very different – everyone recalls the try where I came off my wing to receive the pass from you, step Mahony and touch down. Vintage.

      and agreed, you do have a large penis.

  • penis on the tab

    sent to deadspin, waiting for fallout