Brave Blues Beaten
So near yet so far for Rob Malaney’s side.
Cambridge 19-26 Oxford
Defeat is never easy to take, but when it is at the hands of your bitterest rivals, from a position of such strength, it feels even worse.
Five minutes into the second half Cambridge’s Rob Stephen kicked a penalty to put the Light Blues thirteen points ahead. Oxford’s captain, our boys’ vanquisher last year, had been withdrawn with injury. Cambridge looked dangerous in attack, reasonably solid in defence. It was there for the taking.
But, alas, it was not to be. From that point on, the Dark Blues scored 20 points, and our heroic underdogs could do nothing. Three years in a row we have now seen the Varsity trophy disappear to that Other Place.
At the heart of it all, the thorn in a Cambridge side which gave its all for 80 minutes, was Sam Egerton, the full-back who moved to scrum-half to first probe and then rip apart the Cambridge defence.
First, with Oxford pressing deep in the Cambridge 22, Egerton slipped out of three would-be tackles to score the first try for his side. 9 minutes later he moved the ball left to find an overlap, presenting another easy score. Then, with just a few minutes left, he broke our hearts with a break from a ruck on the 10-metre line, before feeding Charlie Marr to seal an Oxford win.
Cambridge players collapsed to the floor. Some cried. Fans, the loudest part of the 25,000 strong crowd, went silent. It had seemed so close, but it was over.
The boys in Light Blue should take pride from their performance, particularly in the first half. Three Rob Stephen penalties had put us 9-0 in front, before, on the stroke of half-time, a slick piece of back-play set Tab star Will Smith away on the right wing. At first it looked as though Smith had wasted the opportunity, held up by two men, but he offloaded to Andrew Murdoch, who couldn’t fail to score.
Twickenham erupted. Jubilation was in the air, Cambridge looked confident – there was no sign of what was to come. Oxford were lacking in discipline – none more so than their captain Carter, a former professional player, who was injured shoulder charging a Cambridge man off the ball – and in freezing conditions, points on the board looked to be a safety net.
And, even when Oxford began to dominate, we had our chances. The forwards continued to dominate in the loose, and a rolling maul which started on the 22 only came up about a yard short.
But as energy levels fell, mistakes crept in, tackles were missed, and the day was lost. It was a brave performance, against a far more experienced opposition, summed up by the huge tackling of Dugal Bain and the breakdown work of Nate Brakley. In the end, however, it was Carter who collected the trophy, with a tearful Cambridge side knowing that the road to Twickenham 2013 starts here.
Earlier in the day the U21s were roundly beaten by their Other Place counterparts. Cambridge also took the lead in this game, before a strong second half display from the Dark Blues saw them falter. The less said about the Cambridge tackling, the better.
For the fullest account of the two Varsity matches anywhere, read our Live Blog of the match HERE.