Hilary Foord sets Cambridge University challenge of ending decade of Dark Blue dominance in Varsity Rugby League Match
Hilary Foord feels Cambridge University are in the best position possible to stop the Varsity Rugby League Match rot this Saturday (March 2).
It has been a decade of woe for the Light Blues, with nine defeats in a row to Oxford, but the gap has been slowly closing, and parity in the league could be a big factor at Cambridge Rugby Club’s Volac Park, which is hosting the match for the first time.
Cambridge were promoted to the BUCS League, Midlands 1A last season, pitting them against the Dark Blues. When the two sides met in January, leaders Oxford won 16-0, but it was a close contest.
“The match could have gone either way, we felt we missed a couple of chances out there which on another day we might have taken,” said 21-year-old captain Foord.
“Playing in the same league has helped. Last year we went down with a good team but Oxford were just used to playing at a higher intensity.
“It was 8-6 with 15 minutes to go and they ended up pulling away to win 24-6, so we’re hopeful that having played a higher intensity throughout the year we will be able to maintain our levels better than last year.”
Cambridge are coached by Rob Ashton, who is also the player-coach and captain of East RL Premier Division side Bedford Tigers.
His appointment came at the start of the previous season as Cambridge sought to arrest a run of losses that stretched back to 2010.
Their bid has been helped by having the core squad around since October, which has meant they have not had to rely on rugby union players switching codes in the Lent Term.
“Most of the boys have been playing for six or seven months together and it just gives you more continuity as a team,” said Trinity College student Foord.
“It’s just about being aware of the nuances of the sport. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of they are the same sport. They are very similar in lots of ways, but the differences can be telling come varsity.”
There are 10 returnees from last year’s beaten squad, which includes five of the six-strong pack.
Former captain Miles Huppatz will switch codes, having earned two Blues with Cambridge University RUFC, and will be among the forwards coming off the bench.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in the forwards, a lot of physicality as well and we’re hoping that will give us some edge,” said Foord.
“The two games I’ve played in, the first 20 minutes are really physical and I just think it sets the tone if you can get their lads tired and some front-foot ball.
“It sets you up on a good platform and then you can look to exploit that tiredness later on in the game.”
And victory over Oxford on Saturday would complete a transformation in the past couple of years.
“Sam [Parker], who is president this year but was captain last year did a really good job in turning the club around,” said Foord. “Obviously we got promotion, pushed them quite close in varsity (last year) so victory would be a satisfying end to this two-year project ,especially as quite a few of the more experienced players leave after this one.”
The kick-off for the Varsity Rugby League Match is 2pm on Saturday at Volac Park.