Cambridge players celebrating at full-timeStuart Smith

Cambridge beat Oxford 14-8 at Grange Road last night (18/06) in a dynamic affair to win the 41st Rugby League Varsity Match, marking their first victory since 2009, while Oxford Maroons subjected Cambridge Reserves to a 6-14 defeat.

Cambridge 14-8 Oxford

After an intense opening ten minutes that saw some huge tackles, Oxford found themselves attacking inside the Cambridge 22 following repeated infringements by the home side.

The visitors warped the Cambridge defence with powerful forward play and then spread it wide through the backline, with full back Josh Abbas setting up Logan Stewart in the corner with a deft one-handed offload to put Oxford 0-4 up.

It only took 5 minutes for the home side to respond in kind. Winger Joe Thrush, outstanding throughout the game, carved the Oxford defence open on the right flank and centre James Laudage crossed the try-line shortly after. Matt West missed the difficult conversion and the sides were tied level at 4-4.

The physicality of the Cambridge forwards was proving too much for the visitors to handle. Props Hugo Lloyd Williams and Alex Froud, and hooker Richard Denzil Bowen were imperious in the ruck zone, breaking the Oxford line with powerful running in attack, and making dominant tackles in defence.

Following an Oxford knock-on in the 22nd minute, loose forward Max Holcroft picked up the scraps and charged up the pitch, the Oxford scramble defence only bringing him down on the edge of the 22. A brilliant, sniping run by Thrush saw him score Cambridge’s second try to give the home side a 4-point lead.

Oxford should have then drawn level at the start of the second half as prop Will Osborne broke clean through the Cambridge line to create a two-man overlap, which was squandered with a wayward pass.

Cambridge’s physicality told, however. From the 50th minute, the light-blues pegged their opposition back in their half with strong tackling and astute game management by half-backs Elliott Stockdale and James Mahon, and their efforts were rewarded in the 59th minute with a penalty that was calmly converted by Matt West for 10-4.

From here, the home side turned the screw: following a turnover off a fantastic two-man tackle by the Cambridge props, winger Will Yarwood dashed down the right wing to put daylight between the two teams on the scoreline at 14-4.

A dangerous tackle in the 71st minute then resulted in James Mahon picking up the first yellow card of the game, putting Cambridge down to 12 men going into the final 10 minutes.

With five minutes left on the clock, Hunter Heenan-Jalil scored another Oxford try, following a spell of Cambridge errors, although Dan Cotton failed to score the subsequent conversion. This closed the gap between the two teams, bringing the score to 14-8, and increasing tensions as Cambridge saw out the game.

In an interview with Varsity earlier this week, Cambridge University Rugby League Football Club (CURLFC) President Elliott Stockdale outlined the team’s preparation throughout the year to become a stronger side “physically and mentally ready for a full eighty minutes [...] smart enough to come away with the win” after last year’s 32-20 defeat which marked an eleventh-consecutive loss. Speaking to Varsity after the match last night (18/06), Stockdale admitted that “not having won since 2009 can put a lot of pressure on you [...] but we were so confident in ourselves, we had such a good team this year [...] I knew none of us were going to let each other down”, adding that this year’s victory stands as a sign of “what this club [CURLFC] is built for.”

Last night’s victory saw the Green Lions reduce the overall fixture deficit, with Cambridge now having won 17 matches compared to Oxford’s 23, in addition to the 22-22 draw that both sides played out at Old Deer Park in 1994.



1) Ross McGinn, 2) Ted Chatfield, 3) Reuben Brown (VC), 4) James Laudage, 5) Joe Thrush, 6) Elliott Stockdale, 7) James Mahon, 8) Alex Froud, 9) Richard Bowen, 10) Hugo Lloyd Williams, 11) Will Scrivens, 12) Matt West, 13) Max Holcroft (CC), 14) Will Yarwood, 15) Rhys Mould, 16) Ben Schallamach, 17) Todd Tunley


1) Josh Abbas, 2) Logan Stewart, 3) Dan Cotton, 4) Hunter Heenan-Jalil, 5) Harry Folkard, 6) Charlie Hewes, 7) Jack Gordon, 8) Will Osborne, 9) Jaidan Reeder, 10) Ryan Parry, 11) Lewis Sutton, 12) Lewis Greenan-Barret, 13) Rufus Pierce Jones (C), 14) Archie Baraclough, 15) Jamie Lloyd Williams, 16) Jack Wilson, 17) Leo Langridge

Cambridge Reserves 6-14 Maroons

Despite threatening Cambridge breaks in the first half, Oxford Maroons eventually overcame the hosts by an eight-point marginStuart Smith

The match was reduced to two halves of thirty-five minutes due to time constraints, with an entertaining first half ending scoreless as both sides defended resolutely and struggled to convert their chances in the opposition 22. The attacking talent in the Cambridge side was on full display in a number of breaks, winger Felix Asare, centre John Tan, and second-row Joe Fennell all breaching the Oxford defensive line with their pace and footwork. Aside from these flashes of individual brilliance, however, the home side struggled to move up the park in their offensive sets, with the rainy conditions forcing several errors from both sides.

Oxford began the second half very strongly, with Milo Wills powering through the Cambridge defence to score the first try of the game in the 37th minute. Joe Grosvenor then failed to score the conversion, leaving Oxford 4-0 up early on in the second half.


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The sophistication of Oxford’s attack - alternating between direct physical carries from the forwards and slick backline moves - caused Cambridge serious difficulties. Harry Jackson-Smith sliced through the line in the 41st minute with support from Gabe Tufail-Smith who went on to dot down in the corner, giving his side an eight point advantage.

Despite Oxford’s dominance, Cambridge hit back in the 50th minute with an opportunistic try when Oxford fullback Olly McAllister failed to catch a well-judged kick, bringing the home side back into the contest at 6-8.

However, the gulf in quality between the two sides was apparent following the restart, as Cambridge half back Juan Rodgers committed a knock-on in a tackle, allowing Oxford to pummel away at the Cambridge line and come away with a try through Tomas Dwyer, converted by Grosvenor to put the Maroons out of sight at 6-14.

Despite Cambridge’s best efforts, Oxford saw out the final quarter of the game - the visitors ultimately too physical for the home side.



1) Mathew Brady, 2) Claudio Lubis, 3) Alex Davies, 4) Eugenio Nanni, 5) Felix Asare, 6) Juan Rodgers, 7) Howard Hawkes, 8) Sean Smith, 9) Theo Denys, 10) Matyas Molnar, 11) Tobia Nava, 12) Joe Fennell, 13) James Arthur, 14) Amritz Ansara, 15) John Tan, 16) Seb Baynes, 17) Marek Szeles

Oxford (Maroons)

1) Ollie McAllister, 2) Abdullah Reza, 3) Mauricio Alencar, 4) Seb Talbot (C), 5) James Tufnell, 6) James Milford, 7) Joe Grosvenor, 8) Harry Jackson-Smith, 9) Angus McCance, 10) Steven Ettema, 11) James Mann, 12) Milo Wills, 13) Gabe Tufail-Smith, 14) Rufus Longsdon, 15) Keir Mather, 16) Tomas Dwyer, 17) Tola F-a, 18) Tom Duffield