The victorious team with Prof Christopher Dobson, the Master of St John'sA. Hardy

St John's 22 - 5 Jesus

Everybody not wearing a slightly obnoxious red jumper at Grange Road on Wednesday afternoon was desperate for St John’s not to win rugby cuppers for a sixth year in a row.  Cambridge college rugby has become slightly predictable: John’s win cuppers, John’s win the league, everyone else fights for the spoils.  Yet in reality there was little doubt that this depressing trend would continue.  Once again St John’s displayed their undoubted superiority in all aspects of the game with a resounding 22-5 win over a Jesus team lacking in ideas and penetration.

John’s were fitter, more dynamic and smarter than their counterparts, who, while showing an admirable desire to run the ball from deep, were persistently caught in possession in their own half and turned over by John’s superior set of forwards.  The St John’s back three led by the excellent Cherezov, by comparison, played the percentages, running when there was space and kicking when there was not.

As a defensive unit, Jesus were impressive: they closed down space well and made strong first up tackles.  Yet their set piece was poor.  The John’s scrum pushed Jesus repeatedly backwards and their lineout failed to function effectively.

Cherezov and Stevens sum up the run of playA. Hardy

It was little surprise then that it was Jesus’ struggling set piece that led to the opening try and not their defensive line.  A scrum 10 yards out was pushed and heaved with relatively little resistance towards Jesus’ line resulting in the simplest of put downs by Well at number 8.  Ten minutes later John’s superior forward power showed again as they pushed Jesus onto the back foot.  The resulting broken field allowed Baird to rampage over the line to score John’s second try, the referee curiously ignoring what looked to be obstruction by a number of the other forwards.

The crowd (except those in obnoxious red jumpers) sighed: the floodgates were opening and Jesus were struggling to snap them shut.  A brilliant try saving tackle from the very impressive Ramagge stopped Burdon scoring, and a similarly superb tackle from Tabara held up the red tide for but a moment before the ball was shipped wide to Shao-Lin who powered his way past two Jesus defenders to touch down in the corner.

Half time could not come fast enough for Jesus who struggled in the first half to cope with the rampaging runs of Wells and delicate offloads of Burdon.  The half time score of 17-0 was reflective of how dominant John’s were in possession, and how little Jesus offered as an attacking threat.

The second half kicked off to a chorus of cheers, jeers and Christmas carols from the red jumpered rabble of supporters, yet through the next forty minutes they had surprisingly little to enjoy.  A sniping try from the excellent Wilson extended John’s lead in the 53rd minute but from then on the trend of the first half was reversed as Jesus began to monopolise possession.

They played with more purpose and aggression, desperate to get themselves on the score sheet, but a series of poor decisions and an inability to get quick ball hampered them in their attacking play.  A butchered overlap, a kick to the corner which went over the dead ball line and a series of spilt passes pointed at the difference between the two sides.  John’s, when they had the ball, were clinical and powerful; Jesus struggled to find any sort of penetration.

It took until the last play of the game when John’s had been reduced to 13 men with two yellow cards for persistent infringement at the breakdown for Jesus to score.  They finally managed to work an overlap out wide creating the space for Wragg to cross in the corner allowing the Jesus following to scream as though they had won the game.     

It was just reward for the effort that they had put in.  They had fought the John’s steamroller admirably, yet ultimately there was a huge gulf between the teams.  Without playing well John’s had managed to force yet another Cuppers final win.  John’s were the fitter, stronger and more powerful, Jesus had heart but little skill in the face of a much superior team.

St John’s had to make do with a virtual presentation of the trophy for they had accidentally forgotten to bring it to the match.  Their hegemony in college rugby is so strong that it looks as though it can stay there for the foreseeable future, much to the delight of those in red jumpers.