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Varsity Match 2023: Cambridge University RUFC men’s team battle hard for Twickenham victory over Oxford





Cambridge University RUFC men’s team dug deep to rediscover the winning feeling in the Varsity Match at Twickenham this afternoon.

Opponents Oxford arrived at the home of English rugby looking to make it a straight hat-trick of victories in the showpiece encounter, having triumphed in both 2021 and 2022.

But despite enjoying long spells playing in Cambridge territory, it was the Light Blues – spearheaded by Jamie Benson – who saw it out 15-10 to extend their winning head-to-head record in the fixture to 65-62.

Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cambridge spent large parts of the first half having to absorb wave after wave of pressure, although to their credit, when the opportunities arose they gave Oxford plenty of food for thought.

It took James Shanahan’s side 68 minutes to get on the scoreboard 12 months ago, but this time around they broke the deadlock in the 11th minute when England youth international Benson – in the fly-half role in the absence of injured skipper Toby Flood – slotted a penalty between the posts.

However, from the restart Benson’s clearance was charged down by Harry Parker a few yards from the Cambridge line and from there Oxford set up camp. Their domination eventually told as Cambridge were penalised for an offside and Vasco Faria made no mistake with the resultant penalty.

Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell

It was followed by a period of sustained Oxford pressure, but Cambridge managed to get themselves out in the 28th minute and they made the most of it. Max Loveridge broke clear and produced a perfectly-timed pass that sent Benson clear to dot down under the posts, with the number 10 comfortably dispatching the conversion.

But as was the case with the Cambridge penalty, the response from Oxford was immediate. Winger Tom Mewes slalomed his way past three challenges and went over in the left corner. The kick from Faria was good and he also had the chance to put his team in front for the first time on the stroke of half-time with a penalty, but on this occasion he was off target and the sides headed into the break level at 10 points apiece.

It was a more attack-minded Cambridge that reappeared at the start of the second half and they were rewarded in the 46th minute through Benson’s second try of proceedings. The Harlequins academy player showed a combination of good footwork and power to dart through a gap and force the ball down in the right hand corner under two challenges. The conversion from the right touchline proved to be too challenging, but his side still led 15-10.

Yet, similarly to the first half, the penalty count against Cambridge started to rack up and it eventually cost them a player when loosehead prop Danny Collins, who had only just entered the action as a replacement, was yellow carded for an infringement in the scrum.

Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Men’s Varsity Rugby Match against Oxford at Twickenham. Picture: Keith Heppell

But despite their numerical disadvantage, Cambridge rallied and ended up pinning Oxford in their own 22. Oxford also lost a player during that phase for an infringement from Ed Blake, while Cambridge had a try chalked off in the 66th minute after replays showed that Christian Stehlik had lost control of the ball.

The tension built as the game entered into the closing stages, but Benson was agonisingly close to easing some of that from a Cambridge perspective when he lined up a penalty that would have opened up an eight-point gap, only to see the ball cannon against both uprights.

There was one last push from Oxford, but Cambridge stayed disciplined and once the clock had ticked beyond the 80-minute mark, two-try Benson smashed the ball into the crowd to spark scenes of big celebration.

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