Varsity disappointment for Cambridge Rugby League
It was close but Oxford came out on top in an epic Varsity Match
by Ed Thornton
Thursday 4th March 2010, 22:43 GMT
Cambridge 22 - 32 Oxford
In an unexpected turnaround Oxford came back from being three tries down to beat Cambridge 32-22 in the 30th annual Varsity Match. The fixture, which was played at the Twickenham Stoop and broadcast live on Sky Sports, had both ups and downs until oxford scrum-half Ross Swanson put his decisive mark on the game scoring a hat-trick of tries, kicking eight points and being named man of the match. The Sky commentators were so blown over by his impact they dubbed the game “Swanson’s Match”.
After the opening minutes of inevitably shaky rugby from both sides, the Light Blues asserted their dominance. The Cambridge forwards were continually making ground and when they managed to play out their sets the result was always positive. Whilst Oxford had the first real opportunity, in which winger and Varsity match veteran James Batstone failed to catch a pass two meters from the line, Cambridge were first on the scoreboard. Cambridge captain George Sykes went over the line twice in close succession and both tries were solo performances in which Sykes picked up the ball after the tackle and darted through the Oxford defence. Newcomer Jon Garrity, a one year exchange student from MIT, used the skills he learned playing as a line backer in American Football to add a third try to the Cambridge score sheet: he blasted through a handful of opposition players and fought hard to ground the ball.
Sixteen points ahead and cruising through the match Cambridge looked set to dominate for the remaining hour but it wasn’t to be. When Max Stechman fumbled the ball as he went over the line Cambridge lost the last chance they would have for a while. Before the half time whistle Oxford had reduced the gap to four points as centre Marcus-Alexander Neil gounded the ball twice in the corner, making the most of some great handling from his fellow backs. Oxford came out after half time on a high and converted their galvanized attitude into twenty minutes of one-way traffic as the Light Blues questioned how they were now the ones putting in last ditch tackles. Oxford’s pressure turned into more points early in the second half when Greg Coates and Ross Swanson punished the Light Blues with Coates taking one try and Swanson two more.
Cambridge stand-off Greg Cushing brought the scores close again when two deceptive dummies gave him all the space he needed to score. With the score at 26-22 in the Dark Blue’s favour it was going to be a close finish. After five minutes of tense rugby, in which Cambridge searched for a final try, Swanson stepped up and finished the match with his third and final try. Adding the conversion himself Swanson put his team ten points clear with seconds left on the clock.
No matter how dominant Cambridge were in the first twenty minutes of this game, Oxford’s grit and determination, coupled with the pure class of Swanson, was just too much for the Light Blues and 32-22 was a fair result for a match that brought excitement to all involved. Before kickoff Cambridge coach John Evans said “Both teams are in good form and it should be a cracking game” and he wasn’t wrong. The game was as enticing as it was unpredictable and the crowd were left guessing until the final buzzer.