Oxford’s young stars took victory against a wasteful Cambridge side at the U21 Varsity match, winning 31-17.
The excitement of the Under-21 Varsity game was partly since it acted as a sporting prologue to the main Varsity match later in the day, but the younger members of the University rugby clubs showed themselves to be equally capable of producing a good match. Cambridge took an early lead through a penalty converted by fly half Seb Foster, shortly after his Oxford counterpart Will Dace received a ten-minute suspension for a dangerous tackle. Oxford quickly responded in kind with scrumhalf Matt Shorthose converting a penalty, only for Cambridge to retaliate equally swiftly with a converted try. Upon his return to the fold, Will Dace scored a drop goal to bring Oxford to 10-6 and added a further three points with a penalty five minutes later. The half time score of 10-9 to Cambridge, however, did little justice to the Light Blues, who had been physically and territorially dominant. However, their profligacy in front of the Oxford try line gave Oxford a valuable helping hand which they made full use of in the second half.
Oxford started brightly in the second half, adding ten points to the board in quick succession through a try from hooker Dan Barnes, and a conversion and a penalty provided by Matt Shorthose. Twenty minutes in to the half, substitute prop Dean Irvine took an interception on his own five metre line and ran the ball the length of the pitch to touch down right under the posts and bring Oxford’s lead to 26-10 after the conversion. Oxford had the momentum and the morale, and shortly after Irvine’s try, Fraser Heathcote dived over for five more points in the maul ensuing from a line out. With the game slipping away, Cambridge began a series of attacks, scoring a converted try through substitute Alfie Lloyd. It seemed as though the momentum had swung back in the Light Blues’ favour but for all their dominating possession and territory for much of the rest of the match, they continued to struggle to make their dominance count. At the final whistle, with Oxford winning 31-17, the Cambridge squad looked deflated and shocked. They should have been closer, possibly even beaten Oxford, but they crucially failed to take their chances while they had them. Oxford, on the other hand, managed to put nine points on the board in a first half wherein they very rarely made forays into the opposing half. This match, then, was an emphatic lesson in Jonny Wilkinson’s mantra “come away with points.”