A resilient Oxford side secured a commanding victory over Cambridge at Twickenham yesterday, despite playing with only 14 men for nearly half an hour. Samson Egerton became the first player ever to be sent off in a Varsity Match when he was involved in an off the ball incident around the 55 minute mark, but the impressive dominance of the Oxford pack kept Cambridge at bay. Oxford Captain John Carter, who announced his retirement for the third time immediately after the game, described the performance as “among the best [he had] seen by an Oxford side” as the Dark Blues secured their fourth consecutive varsity triumph.
It was Cambridge who started the stronger however, opening the scoring within ten minutes when fast hands from Toby May put Nick Jones over in the corner. In a frenetic opening period, the Light Blues then lost impressive number 8 Sam Farmer to injury, before Oxford hit back with a try on their own when a powerful surge at the scrum allowed captain John Carter to rumble over from a yard out.
A spirited Cambridge side hit back soon after, making repeated forays deep into the Oxford half, and they were rewarded when Don Stevens added three points from the ten-meter line. Oxford’s sheer physicality began to tell however, as the fly half struggled off soon after with a shoulder injury. The Dark Blues then drew level thanks to a brilliant piece of skill by Henry Lamont, who beat 3 defenders inside the 22 to scramble over. Oxford’s dominance at the scrum was a pivotal feature of the game throughout, and the Dark Blues dismantled the Cambridge scrum again just before half time, to lead 13-10 at the break.
Oxford pulled further ahead shortly after half time, when soft hands from Will Rowlands gave Samson Egerton the space to canter over under the posts. The game was then marred by its incident of controversy when the Television Match Official deemed the Oxford scrum half to have been guilty of illegal contact with the face, worthy of a red card. Oxford however, seemed rallied by the decision, closing Cambridge down with ruthless efficiency. The experience of the Oxford side, which fielded 13 players with previous Varsity experience, was telling, and the Dark Blues retained the ball for an impressive 14 phases with Lamont at scrumhalf before Nick Gardner crashed over from close range.
As the game wore on, Cambridge’s man advantage began to tell, and Toby May took full advantage of a colossal overlap to dab down with fifteen minutes remaining, Oxford defended resolutely however, and added to further penalties to finish the 132nd Varsity Match by 33 points to 15.
More photos and reaction to follow. See minute-by-minute coverage of the game by the Oxford Student here: http://oxfordstudent.com/2013/12/12/the-varsity-match-2013-live/