Chris Bell crosses the line to score Cambridge's first tryThe Varsity Match



A titanic effort from Cambridge men’s rugby team helped them to a 20-10 victory in a bruising encounter with Oxford.  Tries from Chris Bell, Archie Russell and captain Charlie Amesbury were enough to see off a combative Dark Blue side containing several former international players, securing victory in a match that both sides see as defining their season. 

After an attritional, back-and-forth start, in which Cambridge had two tries ruled out by video replays, the Light Blues opened the scoring through scrum-half Chris Bell.  An almighty shunt from the Cambridge pack secured them the ball from a scrum on the Oxford five metre line, and Bell, seeing the Dark Blue forwards retreating, took advantage to cruise over the line unchallenged. Fly-half Mike Phillips missed the conversion, though, and Oxford hit back quickly through a penalty from captain Conor Kearns, making the score 5-3.

On the stroke of halftime, Cambridge appeared to have extended their lead; a brilliant exchange of passes by prop Will Briggs and inside-centre Jake Hennessy resulting in the latter sliding over the try line.   Again, though, referee Christophe Ridley consulted video replays, and ruled that Hennessey’s flat pass that set Briggs through the Dark Blue defensive line had been forward, overturning the try.  At halftime, Cambridge led by just two points. 

The second half began in in much the same fashion as the first, with fierce tackling from both teams foiling most attacking endeavour.  With half an hour to go, Cambridge won a penalty thirty metres out, just to the right of the posts, and fly-half Phillips unerringly thwacked it over to make it 8-3 to the Light Blues.

There was a lengthy delay as Cambridge number six Mat Watson was loaded onto a stretcher and carted off the field with a serious injury, but if the Light Blues were shaken, they didn’t show it.  Crisp, confident passing and direct running helped them to crash into the Oxford 22, and a smooth step from outside-centre Archie Russell bought him just enough time to dive over in the left corner.

That afforded Cambridge a little breathing space, but the Dark Blues quickly fought their way back into the game, a series of rumbles from the forwards working them towards the Light Blue line, and eventually allowing number eight Will Wilson to crash over.  Connor Kearns’ conversion was successful, and the score was 13-10 to Cambridge with fifteen minutes to play.

Five minutes later, though, the Light Blues had restored their lead.  Oxford were unable to stop a rolling maul from a lineout deep inside their own 22, and Cambridge captain Charlie Amesbury dotted down. The Dark Blues fought ferociously to claw their way back into the match, but Cambridge were unyielding, and held out for a well-deserved victory.  

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