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Cambridge University suffer defeat to Oxford in the 137th Varsity Match

Twickenham Men's Varsity. Picture by Keith Heppell. (5854250)
Twickenham Men's Varsity. Picture by Keith Heppell. (5854250)

Cambridge University’s hopes of a Varsity Match hat-trick were brought to an end by a classy Oxford side at Twickenham Stadium.

In the 137th renewal of the match, Nick Koster’s men just found a Dark Blues’ outfit that included seven players with Premiership experience too much to overcome.

It was not through any lack of wanting from the Light Blues, and despite the 38-16 score-line it certainly did not feel like a 22-point difference between the teams.

The thing that separated the two was that when Oxford scented blood, and points, they went for the kill, while on the other side of the coin, a fierce defence proved difficult for Cambridge to breach.

It was a strange first half as there was a lack of ebb and flow – it was much more stop start.

There was more of a feel of taking it in turns to attack, but it was during longer spells of play rather than free-flowing, open rugby.

Oxford were doing well to disrupt the Cambridge line-out and that in turn hampered the ability to get the ball moving in the backs.

It was not so much a slog fest in the forwards as both packs were proving impossible to move off the ball.

Cambridge were forcing the errors from the Dark Blues though, and that was giving them the chance to slowly build a lead thanks to two penalties from Mike Phillips.

When play turned up the other end, it was then Oxford’s chance to go for the posts, with Tom Humberstone obliging to reduce the deficit.

The theme to the game was the same for the remaining 20 minutes off the half, but in the last play before the break, Oxford took the lead for the first time.

They created an overlap on the right wing after a line break by full-back Ben Ransom and he sent possession wide to Dan Barley to race clear and score, with Humberstone’s conversion making it 10-9 to the Dark Blues at half time.

With Oxford operating a strong, high line of defence it was proving impenetrable for Cambridge, and the task got even harder five minutes into the second half.

A catch and drive inside the 22 led to George Robson orchestrating affairs and as they crossed the try line, Charlie Pozniak touched down. Humberstone’s conversion made it 17-9.

Cambridge went back on the front foot and again enjoyed the greater share of territory and possession, but they could just not break the gain line.

In contrast, Ransom was leading the charge for the Dark Blues and one such burst broke the line and led to play being recycled across the pitch for Tom Stileman to spin through three attempted tackles to score in the corner.

Ransom, who was named man of the match, was to the fore again when his break led to the sin-binning of Cambridge fly-half Phillips, and when the following passage of play was moved right, a deft flick of the wrists saw him pass to Barley to get his second try in the corner, with Humberstone converting to make it 31-9.

A catch and drive from a line-out saw captain Nick Koster touch down for Cambridge in the 75th minute to give them a glimmer of hope, with Chris Bell kicking the conversion to make it 31-16.

However, any outside hope disappeared minutes later as Humberstone got through to reach out and touch down, and his extras made it 38-16.

Cambridge University: Joey Gatus (Corpus Christi); Elliott Baines (Peterhouse), Henry King * (St Catharine’s), Jake Hennessey * (Trinity), Joe Story (Trinity); Mike Phillips * (Emmanuel), Chris Bell * (Girton); Charlie MacCallum (Downing), Miles Huppatz * (Downing), William John Dean * (St John’s),

Jordan Eriksen (Girton), Andrew Hunter * (St Edmund’s), Stephen Leonard * (Emmanuel), Sean McMahon (Gonville & Caius), Nick Koster * (Queens’).

Replacements: Sam Schusman (Magdalene), Henry Somers (Hughes Hall), Jonathan Dixon * (Downing), Rowan Beckett (Peterhouse), Olly Smart (Downing), Charlie Saunders (Selwyn), Oliver Gnodde (St Edmund’s), Rory Triniman (Hughes Hall).

Oxford University: Ransom; Barley *, Kearns *, Waldouck *, Stileman *; Humberstone, Tresidder; Parker, Henry *, Morris *, Dix, Robson, Pozniak *, Miller, Kerneis.

Replacements: Navarajasegaran, Hennessy, King, Warr, Jones, McGagh, Jackson, Martin.

Referee: Nigel Owens.

Scorers: 9min Phillips pen (3-0), 14 Phillips pen (6-0), 21 Humberstone pen (6-3), 40 Phillips pen (9-3), 40+5 Barley try – Humberstone con (9-10), 45 Pozniak try – Humberstone con (9-17), 63 Stileman try – Humberstone con (9-24), 71 Barley try – Humberstone con (9-31), 75 Koster try – Bell con (16-31), 78 Humberston try – Humberstone con (16-38).

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