Varsity Rugby: The Aftermath

RUGBY: MICHAEL ALHADEFF picks over the bones of what was a gloomy day at Twickenham.

cambridge rugby James Wade John Carter Karl Outen Matt Guiness King oxford rugby twickenham Varisity

As the dust settled on a traumatic day for Cambridge rugby, the men who suffered on the field sat down to explain what exactly went wrong.

Cambridge Captain Matt Guinness-King told the media after the game: “I think the big difference was Oxford were able to sustain a high level for the full 80 minutes. Its such a cliché thing to say, but you do have to play rugby for the full 80 minutes.”

Guinness-King said a lack of concentration for the full 80 had troubled Cambridge all season, adding that in some games “a couple of heads went down, we have spoken a lot about that in the lead up to this match today. Unfortunately, it did happen today again.”

Guinness-King summed up the result saying: “That’s the way sport happens at the top level… if you do go to sleep for 10 minutes, good teams like Oxford will capitalise on that.”

This was particularly evident in the second half when Oxford spent most of the time camped in their opponents half. Cambridge were unable to generate any momentum of their own. Guinness-King was honest in his team’s inability to create a platform for their much-vaunted back three.

Such frankness may be refreshing to some ears, but will worry others. This is a Varsity, the pinnacle of any season, played out in one of the world’s most historic stadiums; how could they just switch off?

For Guinness-King this was his last foray into battle. The Canadian has decided to hang up the boots, saying it would have been: “nice to have the win…but couldn’t think of better group of guys to go out with.”

Despite defeat Guinness-King will have fond memories of his time as a Blue

He added: “I love the Cambridge club… it’s been really rewarding.” Perhaps in recognition of this, he plans to stay involved.

For Oxford, the match reflected perfect execution – both coach and Karl Outen were keen to stress preparation and totality of performance as the root of their success.

Karl Outen, winning the Alastair Hignell medal for Man of the Match, was keen to push the attention away from his own performance.

“From 1 to 15 we were awesome,” he said, adding: “As a forward, who has been working pretty hard for an hour or so, when you see your winger step in and make a 20 or 25 yard break, its a really nice way to take the  pressure off and a huge moral boost.

He highlighted Oxford’s transition to the second half as a key moment for the Dark Blues but said: “The match was a blur… there will be memories that get bigger and bigger as the night goes on and a couple of beers  are drunk.”

Coach James Wade repeated Outen’s emphasis to Oxford’s second half performance, saying Oxford had changed things round at half-time by deciding to play further up the pitch, giving them a better platform of attack. This tactic produced two further tries.

Oxford pushed on in the second half

Asked about the punch, Wade was keen to move on, simply stating: “when he [John Carter] came back on, he was like a wounded animal, it actually worked for us rather than against us.” Indeed, Carter seemed able to channel his emotion by marauding round the field for rest of the match.

This was perhaps the key difference between the sides, the ability to handle emotion. This was something hinted at by Wade – Oxford seemed ready and primed for the contest.

The defeat clearly hurt Cambridge, their second on the trot. They can only hope to channel this hurt and come back stronger next season.

Photos by David Ponting