Cambridge University win 31st Women's Varsity Match
Light Blues secure 24-0 victory over Oxford University
Territorial dominance, possession dominance, scrum dominance, points dominance, you could say that it was the perfect performance from Cambridge University as they beat Oxford University 24-0 in the 31st Women’s Varsity Match.
It was a display in which the foundation was laid almost a year to the day, and the execution of the plan was superbly delivered.
The Dark Blues’ 3-0 win last year had hurt the Light Blues, and it had centred minds and increased focus on not making the same mistakes in 2017, and everything they had learnt was put into practice at Twickenham.
After a tentative first few minutes, it was a commanding if not offensively dominant performance from Cambridge in the first half.
They had the edge in most areas, but in the testing conditions slight handling errors meant they were unable to get the ball going properly through the backs.
What was impressive though was their ball presentation.
Nearly every time they were tackled and a ruck was formed, the tackled player was cleanly able to offer the ball to her arriving team-mate.
It made life a lot easier for scrum-half Kate Marks to get her side on the front foot, and provide the team with go-forward ball.
There was also a really prominent display from the back row, in particular Chloe Withers, who were acting as master spoilers and tacklers to peg Oxford in their own half.
Violet Smart seemed to be the Dark Blues’ biggest threat on the right wing, but it was more about her awareness on the pitch rather than the possession that she was receiving.
As the half wore on, you got more of a feeling that the first points would be crucial.
With Oxford looking physically bigger and suggesting they would be more adept at playing a tighter game, for them to get the first score would have allowed them to play deeper.
But for Cambridge to get the opening points, it was always going to force out the Dark Blues. And that is just what happened.
Mary Coleman had been running some big lines of support and was powerful getting over the gain line, and in the 38th minute she did just that to take Cambridge to the five-metre line.
From the following phases of play, the Light Blues were awarded a penalty which was tapped by Marks to set up Jess Gurney, who powered over the line for the first try, with Alice Middleton adding the conversion.
A matter of minutes later, Oxford’s defensive wall that had stood so firm to that point seemed to have chinks in it, and they were exploited by Cambridge.
Middleton ran wide on the left in her own half, and then kicked over the defence, with captain Lara Gibson picking up the bouncing ball to race clear and score under the posts.
Middleton added the conversion to make it 14-0 at half time.
It was a similar story at the start of the second half, with Cambridge just pinning Oxford back deep in their own half.
The Dark Blues’ ridged defence returned, but that led to an even greater prominence of Cambridge second rows Alice Elgar and Laura Nunez-Mulder.
The duo were taking it in turns to smash back Oxford at any opportunity, denying them any breathing space, and were also putting in some big ball-carrying displays.
And with the ball presentation just as good as in the first half, the sprightly Marks was having a big impact in pegging Oxford in their own 22.
It was the No 9 that got the first try of the second half, picking up from the base of a scrum to dart over the line to make it 19-0.
The match was over in the 79th minute when from another Cambridge scrum, which had been superior all game, the ball was moved left to winger Bluebell Nicholls to touch down.
Cambridge University Women’s team: Middleton; Farrant, Gibson, Coleman, Nicholls; Donaldson, Marks; Orriss, Gurney, Banner, Elgar, Nunez-Mulder, F Shuttleworth, Withers, Pratt.
Replacements: Chan (Orriss, 58), Spruzen (Gurney, 58), Bramley (Nunez-Mulder, 69), J Shuttleworth (F Shuttleworth, 69), Pierce (Banner, 79), McCoig (Elgar, 79), Graves (Donaldson, 79), Gimson (Farrant, 79).
Oxford: Trott; Smart, Simpson, Butning, D’Cruz; Dombrowski, Metcalfe-Jones; Ellender, Bidgood, Odgers, Haste, Collis, Cooper, McArdle, Behan.
Replacements: Cartwright (Ellender, 55), Mingay (Bunting, 64), Fenwick (Smart, 80+2), Bamber (Simpson, 80+9), Male (McArdle, 80+9), Mastte-Gregory (Haste, 80+9).
Scorers: 39min Gurney try – Middleton con (7-0), 40+2 Gibson try – Middleton con (14-0), 67 Marks try (19-0), 79 Nicholls try (24-0).
Referee: Sarah Toll.