Matt Handley reports on the rugby Blues’ 31 – 22 victory over Stanley’s
A match steeped in history provided Oxonians with what they hope will be a glimpse of the not-too-distant future, as the Blues continued their Varsity preparations with a 31-22 victory over the invitational Major Stanley’s XV. Cambridge skipper Rob Malaney brought his side to If- fley Road, resplendent in their crap turquoise blazers, and watched a performance that seemed designed to strike fear into Tab hearts (or the space where a heart would be ex- pected to be in).
Whilst Stanley’s (containing four Samoan internationals) opened the try-scoring mid-way through the first half, it wasn’t long before the Blues levelled. Samson Egerton (who shares the flowing locks or his biblical namesake), a machine at full-back all afternoon, levelled with the first of two tries, being set up after a slaloming run from centre Branham-Law. Bob Baker then put the home side in the lead, only for Stanley’s Samoan Lavasa to salmon-dive over the line fol- lowing a crash ball. After sharing four tries in the first half, it was only the Blues’ superior kicking that separated them, leaving the score 12-10 in favour of the home side at the break.
The Blues were in no mood for fannying about as the second half began, and the referee’s whistle seeming more like a red flag to Egerton, who bullishly ploughed through the opposition’s defence in a move which culminated in a penalty. The fullback both started and finished the move, bolting clear of a Stanley’s defence that were now on their metaphorical collective knees. It was looking like a thrashing was on the cards as two more tries followed for the Blues; Gavin Turner got the first after a sustained period of superiority from an imposing forward line, drawing Stanley’s in, and al- lowing the centre to exploit gap- ing holes in the away defence and get his name on the scoresheet. Soon after Stuart Commins ex- ploited some poor handling from the Majors, combining with wing- er Rickner to add further to the Blues’ lead. Following solid con- version rates from both Charlie Marr and Cassiam Branham-Law all afternoon, the gap was set at 21 points with a quarter of the match to go.
After facing sustained pressure which left them camped in their own 22 for the majority of the game, Stanley’s broke from their slumber and managed to show a bit more in the last twenty min- utes, with a classy 10 metre off- the-floor offload allowing Auvasa Dalealili to cross the line on 60 minutes. A similarly slick move soon saw Stanley’s capitalise on dodgy defending with a zigzagging passing move bamboozling the Blues, to allow wing Harry Whittington to cross the line. However, by this stage the combination of an irresistible Blues attack and their own execrable kicking meant Stanley’s couldn’t close the gap to any more than nine points, with the home side eventually triumph- ing 31-22.
With the Blues putting a dismal seven-match winless streak be- hind them with a confident and convincing victory, Malaney’s Men will be quivering in their boots, especially with Samson Egerton on such fine form. Just don’t let them anywhere near his hair.
PHOTO// Sam Cheam