Varsity Match Build Up: Light Blues the Favorites
FREDDIE STRACHAN assesses the Dark and Light Blue seasons so far, and makes a prediction for the Varsity Match.
With the Varsity Match only on Thursday, Cambridge can be confident of retaining their title at Twickenham.
The Blues have had a very successful season from the off, losing only three games since their tour to the USA, and playing well against strong opposition, including a Northampton team with England star Shane Geraghty in its ranks and a Crawshays team boasting British Lion Darren Morris.
Oxford, on the other hand, has had a dismal season.
The Dark Blues have won only two games since September, one of which was against the Major Stanleys XV, a scratch team who play Oxford’s equivalent to Cambridge’s Steele-Bodger’s fixture.
Oxford’s entire year started badly with two unexpected losses against Kazan State Agrarian University and RC Slava on their pre- season tour to Russia.
When Oxford were getting crushed by the Cossacks the Light Blues were in America, romping to three easy wins against the best the East Coast had to offer.
Since returning to England, the two teams have also played similar opposition. Significantly Oxford were thoroughly beaten 10-28 by Esher whilst Cambridge despatched the same team 16-21 only a few weeks later.
In their other matches, although the opposition has been different, Oxford has still struggled, but can hardly claim that their opponents have been better teams.
Whilst Cambridge have performed brilliantly against a very strong Northampton Saints side, which fielded the aforementioned England international, Oxford failed to match the strength of London Wasps, who beat the Dark Blues by 24 points. They went down equally spectacularly against Saracens, who smashed Oxford 0-55. Both Wasps and Saracens are lower than Northampton in the Premiership and the Premiership second team tables.
Getting beaten by professional teams does not necessarily mean Oxford is a weak outfit. However, it is the ease of the wins and that will worry Dark Blue Captain Nick Haydon and Oxford’s head coach Murray Henderson .
Oxford so far this season have shown a bluntness in attack and a leaky defence that should bring confidence to Jimmy Richards and his side, who have been dynamic going forward and organised in defence.
After watching the Light Blues’ brilliant second half against the Steele- Bodgers last week, Nick Haydon by contrast, has every reason to be worried.
However, they will also be hoping that a host of players returning from injury, such as second row Tom Evans, as well as from International duty- Dark Blue Stan McKeen will return from representing Canada in its World Cup qualifying matches.Oxford hope his presence will turn their season around. The Light Blues after all, can hardly claim to have had a successful season if they lose the Varsity match.
Furthermore, Cambridge may be without star player; three time Blue Sandy Reid, who was carried off the field in the second half against the Steele- Bodger’s with a broken leg. Missing such a key and experienced player will be a signicant blow for Cambridge, but hopefully will not damage their confidence too much.
However, his replacement Paul Loudon is an experienced player having represented Durham University for three years.
The Light Blues therefore will be confident of a win on Thursday, although they will be expecting Oxford not to lie down without a fight.
The match will hopefully be a classic.