Cambridge University deliver controlled display to beat Oxford in 138th Varsity Match
Strong and stable with a touch of panache is the most fitting description of Cambridge University’s performance to win the 138th Varsity Match.
It may not have been the most exhilarating of games, but the Light Blues did everything asked and required of them to emerge victorious 15-0 over Oxford at Twickenham.
It was a controlled and disciplined display, with quite an eye-catching feat being not one penalty conceded all game by captain Stephen Leonard's side.
The sum of all the parts of the Michaelmas Term came to bear, with the patience exhibited in most of the build-up games coming to the fore in horrendous weather conditions.
It was incessant, non-stop rain all afternoon and on an immaculate surface at HQ, there was nothing to stop the ball skidding about all over the place.
With nothing less than pinpoint accuracy on passes making them stick, it was a task for both sets of players to gather possession.
It meant limited opportunity for contest at the breakdown, with Cambridge’s game management coming to bear with a no-nonsense, safety first kicking approach.
Executing the wishes of the coaching staff is no small feat and, allied to that approach to territory and possession, was a rock-solid set piece.
It gave them the platform to make gradual gains up the pitch, as the opportunities to bring in their lethal back three of Joey Gatus, Tom Lovelace and Fergus Jemphrey were few and far between.
Defences were certainly on top, and Oxford were always in the match on a day when they must have felt everything conspired against them.
They lost scrum-half George Tresidder to injury before the game, saw influential No 8 George Messum go off with concussion eight minutes in, lost fly-half Tom Humberstone to injury after 28 minutes and then had captain Ed David depart after 58 minutes.
The loss of four key Blues would impact any side, and they were unable to escape the clutches of Cambridge’s stranglehold, who choked their opponents out of the game.
Oxford made some impressive line breaks, not least through Dan Stoller and Louis Jackman in the first half.
The defensive unit that Cambridge have created has been resolute all term, and the scramble defence was quick to shut down the Dark Blues on both occasions, with Jemphrey’s tackle on Jackson particularly good.
It was the left winger that made the breakthrough for the Light Blues in the 23rd minute, and it was carved out through one of the few opportunities for panache.
Gatus made an incisive break and cut inside, with Jemphrey offering the option on the overlap on the outside to dart through and touch down.
By placing themselves in good field positions, they were at least reaping the rewards of being able to play in the right areas of the pitch.
There were few glimpses of the whitewash for either side for the remainder of the half, and Cambridge must have been aware of the jeopardy they were placing themselves in with a slender 5-0 lead at half time.
How the Light Blues would approach the second half would be crucial, and they picked up where they left off, edging forward with gradual gains through the kick-chase to make territory.
It brought some much-needed breathing space as, after being held up on the line, a 5m scrum led to play going left for Jemphrey to power over to ground the ball under the pressure of multiple challenges after 48 minutes.
What was to follow was territorial domination and control from Cambridge, without quite having that cutting edge to add to their tally.
Oxford seldom made it out of their own half, living off scraps for any slight possession but it was in the wrong area of the pitch to trouble the scoreboard.
It was an impressive demonstration of discipline and patience as they just looked after the ball well to close out the game, with the final flourish coming from scrum-half Chris Bell spotting a gap to dart through to make it 15-0.
It was a thoroughly deserved win for the Light Blues which showcased so much about the mental strength and discipline of the side.
Cambridge: Joey Gatus (Corpus Christi); Tom Lovelace ( Hughes Hall), Rory Triniman (Hughes Hall), Charlie Watson (Selwyn), Fergus Jemphrey (Homerton); Mike Phillips (Emmanuel), Chris Bell (Emmanuel); Charlie MacCallum (Downing), Miles Huppatz (Downing), Ed Harborne (Clare), James Horwill (Queens’), Flip Van Der Merwe (Queens’), Tom Walton (St John’s), Sean McMahon (Gonville & Caius), Stephen Leonard (Emmanuel).
Replacements: Smeaton (McMahon, 58), Russell (Lovelace, 58), Gliksten (Triniman, 64), Smart (Walton, 73), Beckett (van der Merwe, 76), Cook (MacCallum, 80), Schusman (Huppatz, 80), Collins (Harborne, 80).
Oxford: Dan Stoller (Queen’s); Ed David (St Hilda’s), Nick Greenhalgh (Uppingham), Louis Jackson (Oriel), Tom Stileman (Christ Church); Tom Humberstone (Jesus), Jack Dalton (Keble), Euan Friend (University); John Aaron Henry (Brasenose), Ben Parker (Brasenose), Jasper Dix (Oriel), Charlie Pozniak (St Benet’s Hall), Ryan Jones (St Edmund Hall), Sam Miller (St Edmund Hall), George Messum (Kellogg).
Replacements: Warr (Messum, 8), Hackett (Humberstone, 28), Martin (David, 55), Vaughan (Parker, 55), Oswal (Friend, 76).
Scorers: 23min Jemphrey try (5-0), 48 Jemphrey try (10-0), 80+5 Bell try (15-0).
Referee: JP Doyle.