Cambridge won the women's Varsity for the second year in a rowThe Varsity Match (Twitter)

Cambridge were able to finish their incredibly successful season with a hard-fought 5-8 victory over a valiant Oxford side on 6 December. Cambridge worked as a team from the first whistle and led convincingly until the final 6 minutes when an Oxford try made for a nail-biting final run in. But in the end Cambridge were able to hang on to secure a famous win.

As the Dark Blues of Oxford and the Light Blues of Cambridge lined up for the national anthems, they were joined by a host of alumni from previous years on this 30th anniversary of the Varsity match; there was a sense that the occasion was one of celebration of women’s rugby as a whole at Twickenham stadium. However, from Nikki O’Donnell’s first whistle it was clear that there was no love lost between these two historic rivals. Both sides would fight tooth and nail for the win.

“Speaking on the loud-speaker after the final whistle, captain Kate Marks said, "I could not be prouder" after a herculean effort from both sides, especially in the final quarter.”

Cambridge went into the 32nd Varsity match as marginal favourites with 7 convincing wins from 7 in BUCS Midlands 1A, while Oxford had lost every game this season in BUCS Premier South. However, it was Oxford first out of the blocks as Abby D'Cruz plucked a bouncing ball from no man’s land to set Hannah Cooper away. Oxford’s advance was only pushed back by some stalwart defending on the 5-metre line and it looked like it might be a long day at the office for the Light Blues as a succession of big hits came in from the Oxford girls.

However, Cambridge were working hard all over the pitch and had forced their way back into it by the midway point in the first half. It looked like they had drawn first blood as a herculean push from the front row was only stopped at the 5-metre line. And minutes later, they were ahead. Cambridge captain Kate Marks picked up the ball from the scrum and off-loaded to Emily Pratt who touched down in the corner to raucous scenes from the Cambridge fans. With the conversion missed, the scores sat at 5-0 to Cambridge with half an hour gone. 

Oxford looked like they would be in even deeper trouble as a high tackle from Oxford number six Maria Bernier sent her to the sin bin. However, Cambridge were unable to press their numerical advantage home - in fact, it was Oxford with the better territory. But the half time-whistle sounded with the scores at 5-0 to the girls in Light Blue. So far so good for Cambridge.

Alumni line up with the two teams for the national anthemsMarcus McCabe

And the second half began with another wave of Cambridge pressure as they looked to maintain the frenetic tempo set in the first half. This forward momentum resulted in a penalty in front of the Oxford sticks 8 minutes into the half which was tucked away by Alice Elgar to put Cambridge 8 points to the good.

An unfortunate injury to Sophie Farrant after 58 minutes offered both teams breathing space, but proceedings continued in similarly fast-paced fashion after both sides had had a chance to discuss tactics. Lara Gibson broke through several tackles as if they weren't there for Cambridge, driving from inside her own half and only stopped 15 metres shy of the try line by the last line of Oxford defence in the shape of Connie Hurton. Cambridge were smelling blood as yet another Gibson charge pulled the Light Blues up the pitch.

However, buoyed by the growing support from the stands of Twickenham, Oxford were able to rally and the the next ten minutes became more scrappy, played between the two opposing packs in and around the half-way line. It was Cambridge's turn to hang on as Oxford upped the ante in the final quarter of an hour. Attack after attack was quelled deep in Cambridge territory.

Finally, with 6 minutes left to play Cambridge's heroic defensive efforts were indeed broached by Oxford number 5 Katy Collins. A smooth switch of play overloaded Cambridge's right flank for the ball to be bundled home. With the conversion falling just short, the scores stood at 5-8 with less than five minutes on the clock. 


Mountain View

CURUFC Captain Kate Marks reflects on 30 years of the women's Varsity match

After the restart, Cambridge were able pen Oxford back into their own half with the help of willing running from today's player of the match Amelia Miller in a truly nail-biting conclusion to a fantastic game of rugby. Cambridge hung on and as the final whistle sounded, the Light Blue players from the bench flooded the pitch to celebrate a memorable 5-8 victory for the Light Blues.

Speaking on the loud-speaker after the final whistle, captain Kate Marks said, "I could not be prouder" after a gruelling effort from both sides, especially in the final quarter. 

As both teams headed up to receive their medals, the Twickenham crowd were surely reflecting on an incredible advert for the women's game here at the home of rugby. The tie could have gone either way but Cambridge gain bragging rights for another year.

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