ugby at its best can be pulsating, elegant and exciting but as any seasoned fan will tell you, it also has its days where you wish you had just stayed at home in the warmth and comfort of your front room. Oxford’s games against Trinity seem to be consigned to the latter as, in almost identical conditions to when the Blues visited Dublin in March, the weather transpired against an open and entertaining match as the game hined on just rhree penalties.
On a blustery night at Iffley Road, Oxford began the match with the considerable advantage of having the wind behind their backs. The Blues were all too aware of the need to make full use of this uncontrollable variable and used it to good effect to keep Trinity pinned in their own half for much of the first 20 minutes.
With tries likely to be kept to a minimum, the relative form of the two kickers was always likely to be decisive, so Jonathan Hudson’s calm performance in slotting through two of three challenging kicks was doubly impressive considering that added pressure. Playing in an unaccustomed position on the wing, the Lincoln man’s assured performance meant that the hard-work of the home side’s forwards was rewarded more often than not.
Seeking to make their early dominance count, Oxford came close to extending their lead when St Hilda’s centre Marcus-Alexander Neil burst clear only to have the ball knocked from his grasp by a desperate Trinity defender with the line at his mercy.
Despite looking comfortable for much of the first half, the Blues survived a scare close to the interval.Trinity enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure close to the Oxford line, but resolute defence from 1 to 15 t saw their repeated goal line attacks repelled and the home side headed into the break with a 6 points to nil advantage.
With the conditions now favouring the Irish side, the second half was always likely to be a back-to-the-walls job for the Blues. Things looked ominous when Trinity reduced the deficit almost as soon as the sides had emerged from their half-time teamtalks, with full-back Conor Kearns stroking over a penalty. Crucially, however, this was to be his only success of the day as he missed a further three kicks which could have propelled his side to victory.
Oxford spent long periods of play defending deep in their own 22, but as at Richmond last week, not only was their individual tackling close to faultless but their defensive organisation gave very little away to their opposition.
The Oxford scrum dominated for most of the match, which frequently allowed the Kebleite fly-half Jacob Taylor, making his debut for the Blues, to clear the ball up field from penalties or free-kicks.
With time almost up, Oxford’s replacement scrum-half Chris Williams (University) intercepted deep in his own half and for a moment looked as though he would go all the way to the try line, but realising he didn’t have the speed he off-loaded to centre Ed Doe (Kellogg) who was hauled down by the Trinity full-back just yards short of the line. Just moments later the referee blew for full-time and Oxford had managed to hold on for the narrowest of wins to reverse their loss from March.
A quick turn around sees the Blues back in action again at Iffley Road on Tuesday night when they entertain the Newport Gwent Dragons, kick off 7.15pm.