Cambridge had already beaten Oxford twice this season and have gone unbeaten in their BUCS leagueJAMES LEE

A fiercely contested encounter on Saturday afternoon saw Cambridge overcome a plucky Oxford side in front of a packed crowd at St John’s College sports ground.

The Cambridge team, containing six Senior England internationals, came into the game as strong favourites, having already beaten Oxford twice this season in the BUCS Premier South league in which Cambridge have gone unbeaten this season.

Oxford, however, had clearly not read the script. Buoyed by the vocal support of a large contingent of travelling supporters, Oxford started the game at high intensity, and Lucinda Maxwell, a former Scotland under-19 international, darted through a desperate Cambridge backline to dispatch the ball into the left-hand bottom corner and give Oxford an early lead.

“The Cambridge team, containing six Senior England internationals, came into the game as strong favourites”

Jolted into action by this early setback, Cambridge immediately hit back to equalise and quickly began to gain a foothold in the game, with Senior England internationals Julie Wise and Amelia Miller (fresh from her man-of-the match performance in the women’s rugby Varsity match) posing a particular threat with their pace and skill.

For all their domination of possession and territory, however, Cambridge were unable to pull away from Oxford in the first period, never opening up more than a single-goal lead. Instead, the well-organised Oxford defence and heroics of goalkeeper Madeleine Sketchley, combined with the clinical attacking play of Alex Drewe and Georgia Bacon, ensured that Oxford headed into the interval only 5-4 down.

The beginning of the second-half provided much of the same, and Cambridge continued to be frustrated by Sketchley’s virtuoso performance in goal, with one particular close-range acrobatic save drawing gasps from the crowd. But when Senior England midfielder Kate Lehovsky finished off a well-worked move to put Cambridge 7-5 up midway through the first-half and give Cambridge a two-goal cushion for the first time in the game, the stage looked set for a Cambridge comfortable victory.

"The final whistle brought on jubilant celebrations and an impromptu pitch invasion from relieved Cambridge supporters"james lee

Much to the joy of the Oxford supporters on the touchline, though, the game was quickly turned on its head. Cambridge, perhaps growing complacent, seemed to switch off defensively, affording the dangerous Oxford attacking duo of Bacon and Drewe far too much time and space. The result was three unanswered Oxford goals: suddenly Oxford were 8-7 ahead with just ten minutes left on the clock, and, as the Oxford supporters serenaded their players with increasingly vociferous chants, Cambridge players must have begun to wonder whether their profligacy in front of goal had cost them the Varsity crown.

To Cambridge’s credit, they did not let their heads drop and continued to probe the Oxford defence, hoping for one final twist in the tail of this pulsating encounter.

And in a dramatic final five minutes, Oxford’s valiant defensive rearguard finally crumbled. First, the irrepressible Amelia Miller levelled the scores with a smart finish following a powerful individual run. And, then, in the final seconds of the game, Light Blues attacker Julia Crerend popped up to apply the finish to a free-flowing attacking move.

The final whistle brought on jubilant celebrations and an impromptu pitch invasion from relieved Cambridge supporters, and Cambridge were able to celebrate a victory which their overall dominance of play merited. The dogged and gutsy Oxford team, though, can be proud of both their efforts against a hugely talented Cambridge side and their contribution to what was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for all spectators, an afternoon on which Cambridge’s female lacrosse players did this University proud.


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Cambridge Women’s Blues: Sophie Tamblyn, Lara Dillingham, Ayesha Nicholls, Erica Wallace, Emma Bennett, Charlotte Paterson, Phoebe Terelak, Julia Crerend, Helen Gildersleeves, Julie Wise, Katie Lehovsky, Tori Molloy, Liv Cox, Ella Benson, Frances-May Gardiner, Amelia Miller, Lily Mainwaring

Oxford Women’s Blues: Becky Robinson, Ama Neubert, Madeleine Sketchley, Beatrice Webber, Hannah O’Bryne, Zoe Thursz, Cat Tiplady, Amelia Cowen, Lizzie Evans, Lucinda Maxwell, Georgia Bacon, Katie Rouse, Katie McCarthy, Charlotte Hoskin, Ellie Dunford Wood, Alex Drewe

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