Nick Koster proud of Cambridge University troops despite Varsity Match defeat to Oxford
Bruised and battered, Nick Koster should be the pride of Cambridge University RUFC.
Despite a 38-16 defeat to Oxford in the 137th Varsity Match, the skipper can stand tall for the way he has led this mainly undergraduate team and the way they played and conducted themselves against a vastly more experienced Dark Blues side.
With blood gushing from an open eye wound and more claret spilling from a cut on the top of his head, the Light Blues captain put off any stitches or medical treatment to head to the tunnel to conduct post-match interviews and heap praise on his young troops.
A role call of Dominic Waldouck, George Robson, Ben Ransom, George Tresidder, Joe Morris and Charlie Pozniak with backgrounds at Premiership clubs, and in Robson’s case representing England, just shows the pedigree in the Oxford ranks.
But that has never hindered or burdened Koster, he has solely focused on what Cambridge were capable of achieving and building.
Koster has been the driving force for Cambridge, and it was perhaps no surprise that he fronted up when others would have been heading straight to the physio’s room.
He has led by example both on and off the pitch, proving to be an inspiration to all those around him, and showing the youngsters what they are capable of achieving and building a team that epitomised his fight and character.
With injuries that ended his professional career, it is a mark of the man that he was nearly ever-present in the Michaelmas Term, setting the standard for those around him and it would have been fitting to have bowed out with Cambridge on a high at Twickenham, but it just was not meant to be.
“We’ve just had a chat and we’ve prided ourselves on effort all season and I don’t think there was ever a lack of effort,” said Koster.
“I think everyone gave their best and tried their hardest. There were crucial parts of the game where we let it slip and we weren’t as good as we should have been.
“The game can get away from you very quickly with good players, and for them, guys like Ben Ransom really caused us a lot of damage.
“It’s hugely disappointing but I’m very proud of the people in this team for the effort they put in.
“We were six points up until five minutes before half time, and they capitalised on a line-out error of ours and scored off that so went into the break one point up.
“We absolutely dominated the first half and were confident coming into the second, but in the second half we couldn’t take some of our chances and they capitalised on some of our errors so well done to them.
“I can look every person in our team in the eye and know they gave their best, and in life you can never ask for more than someone’s best.
“Sometimes you get the result, and sometimes you don’t – a lot of it is actually out of your control. If we were to play this game 10 times, it would be 5-5, but today they beat us fair and square and were the better team.
“I don’t think the score line reflects how close these two teams are so that’s the disappointing part for us from the players’ point of view.
“Hopefully we have made some people proud in terms of how we have gone about our game this season.”
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Though they may have come up short on the day, when the dust has settled Cambridge should look back with no regrets about their performance – they just simply ran into a side that was too good for them. And on this sort of display, probably would be for most teams even in the Championship.
Of course there will be what ifs, maybe they will question some of their line-out work, but by and large, it was just moments of class and finesse that swung the momentum the way of the Dark Blues.
Ransom was their tormentor-in-chief, and it is difficult to remember a better individual display in recent times.
The former Saracens full-back had a hand in three of Oxford’s five tries, and was imperious under the high ball, rapidly turning defence into attack.
Although the 38-16 score may suggest a comprehensive victory for the Dark Blues, it did not feel as if there were 22 points between the teams.
Cambridge had enjoyed the better of the opening period, and went 6-0 up through Mike Phillips’ penalties.
Tom Humberstone and Philips then traded kicks as the Light Blues built a 9-3 lead, but the turning point was Dan Barley’s try in the last play of the half, created by Ransom.
A try by Pozniak five minutes into the second period gave Oxford some breathing space at 19-7, and then Tom Stileman darted in after more inventiveness by Ransom to open the defence in the 63rd minute.
Cambridge were not out of the match by any means but as the score line got bigger, so did their task.
It seemed over when quick hands from Ransom put in Barley for his second try, but as may be expected from a warrior such as Koster, he replied by touching down after a catch and drive.
Any outside hopes of a comeback were extinguished though when Humberstone reached out for Oxford’s fifth try, and that made sure there was to be no third Varsity Match win in a row for Cambridge.