The last time these two sides met, less than a score separated them at the final whistle. Given the big game billing for the first round of Cuppers, ten tries and a gaping gulf in class was the chasm that allowed a rampant Keble side to progress to the second round. It is unlikely that any side will be having their fingers crossed to draw the Reds on this sort of form.
The on-looking Oriel bench were keen to point out that they had chosen not to play their returning Blues stars and that this counted for much of the pendulum swing towards their rivals. Of course this may have been part of the problem, but perhaps a more honest substitute noted their lack of training compared to Keble’s evidently more drilled and slick side. Extra hours on the training pitch may be required to right the wrongs of this performance.
Keble’s returning Blues and U-21 players undoubtedly made a difference. Matt Craggs in particular left his imprint on the game, more specifically on Oriel’s tight-head prop, who repeatedly ricocheted off the no.8’s left shoulder, recording a good few seconds in air-time on each occasion.
As Oakley Cox crossed twice inside the first five minutes of the match, the signs looked ominous for the home side and indeed Cox’s devastating finishing was rewarded with four tries as the host’s defence was cut apart. You could forgive those Keble players who had failed to register their names on the score-sheet for feeling as if they had missed out on the try fest as John Harkness (2), Charlie King, Duncan Bucknell, Tom O’Donnell, Max Woodman and Will Mason all touched down for the visitors. The highlight came from a superb team move, started from inside their own half with crisp off-loading from the forwards before the ball was moved wide into the backs for Cox to give the decisive pass for Bucknell to crash over in the corner.
Oriel’s team spirit was admirable however, their players claiming victory thanks to the ‘last try wins’ rule as Dylan Jones grabbed a late consolation, but sadly to no avail. Keble had triumphed by 64 points to 10 and scrum half Sam Steinert was in a buoyant mood after the game: “it was a great way to start the second half of our season and sets us up perfectly for our grudge match with Teddy Hall – shoe The Hall!” The Hall may well have to be at the top of their game if they do hope to avoid a good shoeing, but with their Blues players back as well, the game on Tuesday now offers the prospect of a classic and hopefully somewhat closer contest.