Rugby boys lose at Twickenham AGAIN!
One man up, Will Brigg’s boys go down 33-15
Walking in to Twickenham on Thursday afternoon, there was a feeling of positivity around the ground. Cambridge had lost the past three encounters – not since 1952 had one side lost more than three matches in a row. Surely this was the year that the Light Blues bucked the trend of painful defeats? Surely it couldn’t be four? Even with the Oxford team featuring 13 returning blues including captain and hairy man-beast John Carter and Cambridge being largely made up of Twickenham newbies, this seemed like it might be our year.
There were positive signs as the game began. Following an early let off courtesy of the shaky kicking from Jon Hudson, Nick Jones bundled over in the corner for a Cambridge try. A superb conversion out wide from Don Stevens gave the Light Blues a commanding 7-0 lead. This was followed by a spell of solid Cambridge defence as Oxford delved into their 22 without success. It looked as though this Cambridge team had some resilience about them but unfortunately, with twenty minutes on the clock, John Carter bundled through for a try. Another failure by Jon Hudson from the conversion was quickly followed by a brilliant long king from Don Stevens to give Cambridge a 10-5 lead.
Cambridge then lost Don Stevens to injury and the momentum of the game shifted. The Dark Blue kicker finally worked out which foot was which and took Oxford in at half-time with a 13-10 lead as he capitalised upon the emerging dominance of the Oxford forwards led by the indomitable John Carter. An otherwise competitive and entertaining half of rugby was somewhat marred by an badly dislocated hip sustained by Oxford’s James Harris late on. He received a good five minutes of treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off on oxygen with his leg jutting out at a horrible angle.
At half-time the game was in the balance and it seemed clear that the next score would be crucial, and disastrously it came for Oxford within minutes of the restart as Sam Egerton – the man who inflicted all of the damage last year – slipped through the Cambridge defence. Remarkably Jon Hudson then scored another conversion, his second in a row no less, and Oxford were up 20 points to 10. Despite being only two scores behind with the majority of the half remaining, Cambridge heads seemed to drop and if it wasn’t for Sam Egerton’s red card for eye gouging all hope would have been lost.
As it was, despite a couple of minutes of renewed energy from Cambridge, the fact they were playing against 14 men had very little impact. If anything Oxford’s dominance increased as Nick Gardener bundled over another try for the Dark Blues subsequently converted by Hudson. A fine try from Cambridge 14 Toby May hinted at a comeback but it was not to be as two further penalties from Hudson closed the match out.
Over eighty minutes it became clear Oxford were by far the stronger team. Cambridge will point to the loss of three key players to injury before half-time but in truth it seemed as though Oxford wanted it more. They were sharper, they were fitter and they acted as more of a unit. With John Carter now finally departing university rugby, next year might provide an opportunity to break the Oxford dominance – but it’s going to require a lot of hard work. The motivation at least should be there; Oxford have never won more than four consecutive matches. I’m sure next year’s squad will not want to facilitate that.