Red Boys Shocked By Magdalene

John’s are left licking their wounds after back to back defeats, as the Division One table opens up.

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Yesterday, Magdalene recorded an historic 15-12 win over a St John’s team, who have now lost two on the trot, to cause carnage in the Division One standings.

The Red Boys will find yesterday’s second blow to their fast-fading legacy particularly difficult take as it was inflicted by their supposedly inferior next-door neighbours.

The two teams’ contrasting approaches to the game was clear from the warm-up: whereas Magdalene were intense and focused, with sixth-year veteran Luke Tyson noisily filling in younger members on the history of the rivalry between the two colleges, St. John’s seemed comparatively laid-back.

Perhaps they thought it would be an easy game.  They had after all won narrowly in Michaelmas (17-5).  But, with a host of Blues squad members returning, they were able to field a much stronger team this time round.

Captain Mathonwy Thomas was back starting at 10, and scored a fine try in the opening minutes of the game. From a pre-planned move off a scrum, he ghosted between the Magdalene back-line with a classy show-and-go to score under the posts converting his own score to give John’s an early 7-0 lead.

The first half was scrappy but physical, and evenly matched. John’s rarely looked to spread the ball out wide, preferring to pick and drive wherever possible.

The hard-hitting nature of the game forced forwards from both sides off the pitch with injuries, leaving scrums uncontested when Magdalene, with two university standard props already unavailable, lost a third to a concussion.

John’s started the second-half the better side and were rewarded with a try after a sustained period of pressure on the Magdalene line. In the last half an hour of the game, however, Magdalene lifted the tempo and intensity of their play. John’s began to pay for their one-dimensional style, with the referee continually penalising their forwards for going off their feet at the breakdown.

The Magdalene back-row unquestionably had the better of their opponents, with Graeme Legh and George Morrissey particularly relishing the physical nature of the contest. One hit from hooker Mike Eason left his opposite number whimpering face-down in the ground, minutes before having to leave the field of play.

Eventually, Magdalene’s power and determination paid off, with Eason driving over from close range. Not long after, Magdalene earned a penalty within range and lanky second-row Jack Pinnock knocked it over to bring the game to within a score at 12-8.

John’s were visibly shaken. Thomas failed to reach the 10 metre-line from kick-off and from the scrum Magdalene continued to drive up the field. It was Angus Sanders, impeccable throughout the game, who sealed the win with a typically fine finish, supporting Legh and centre Matt Wright before out-pacing the trailing Red Boys defence.

All that was left was for Magdalene to close out the final five minutes of the game. Desperately, the Redboys tried a more expansive style of play but Thomas couldn’t galvanize his side and a lazy forward pass from a member of the exhausted John’s pack, spelled the last passage of play.

There were wild celebrations on the sidelines as injured captain Frank Sanders celebrated a famous victory. It would be foolish to write St. John’s off, who must still be one of the favourites for Cuppers when their Blues return to play. For now, however Sanders and Morrissey can celebrate a win that will be remembered in Magdalene for many years to come.

Jesus sealed the title last week, and Trinity are definitely down, but 2nd to 5th are scapping it out to avoid the one other relegation spot

Importantly, this report does not describe just a historic win, but one with huge impacts on the League table. With Downing thrashing a depleted Queens’ side on Tuesday, the relegation battle has descended into a shoot-out between Magdelene and Queens’ who meet in the final game of the season.

Downing and John’s meanwhile, who shared a scoreless draw earlier in the season and sit in second and third respectively, will battle it out for the position of runners up, with Jesus having already been crowned champions and Trinity comfortably relegated to the bottom.

Pictures by Anna Soler