Cambridge put on a dominant performance in the ‘Varsity Match rehearsal’, conceding zero points over the eighty minutesKane Smith/

Yesterday evening (23/11) at Grange Road, Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC) Women defeated Oxford University Rugby Football Club (OURFC) Women 15-0 in the inaugural fixture of the Women’s 88’s Match, honouring the first Women’s Varsity Match that took place back in 1988 and also kicking off a week of celebratory events to mark CURUFC’s 150th Anniversary season.

Prior to the game, a ‘Women in Rugby Networking Event’ was held in the ground’s marquee. This included a drinks reception and guest speaker Tammy Samuel, who studied Law at Jesus College between 1992 and 1995, as well as represented CURUFC before going on to play for both Saracens and England. An alumni gathering also took place in the dining room.

Turning to the action on the field, Oxford dominated the opening exchanges, as a series of handling errors and infringements at the breakdown ensured Cambridge spent the majority of the first ten minutes encamped inside their own 22.

Eventually, Oxford’s pressure waned and Cambridge began to retain the ball well, making inroads into the Dark Blue territory. Flanker Sonia Ubong, in particular, carried the ball strongly, shrugging off tackles on numerous occasions.

An excellent defensive effort from Cambridge full-back Emily Bell prevented Oxford from pouncing on a loose pass, making sure the score remained 0-0 twenty minutes in.

Shortly after, a last-ditch tackle from Colette Russell stopped Oxford inside-centre Rachel Martin from scoring, following her bursting run through the Cambridge defences in the 25th minute.

Captain Laura Bleehen lining up her penalty chanceKane Smith

The deadlock was finally broken, however, in the 30th minute, as Captain Laura Bleehen slotted a penalty from close range to the delight of a packed Grange Road.

In the latter stages of the first half, Cambridge saw far more of the ball, creating some good opportunities that Oxford did well to shut down. The best try-scoring opportunity of the half came as the clock entered the red, with Cambridge’s Millie Bushrod darting forty yards down the touchline only to be bundled out in the corner as she looked certain to score. At the half-time whistle, the score remained 3-0, testament to robust defensive work from both sides.

Just minutes into the second period, Cambridge fly-half Emma Jones spotted a gap in the Oxford back line, weaving brilliantly between defenders to dot over before the majority of the crowd had made it back to their seats. Bleehen duly added the extras to make it 10-0 to the home side in quick fashion.

Oxford’s attack provided flashes of energy, but Cambridge’s defence stood firmKane Smith

Then followed a period of sustained Oxford attack, with fluid phase play resulting in a penalty dead on the 22-yard line. Stella Farmer dragged her effort just left of the upright. The Dark Blues were almost off the mark just seconds later, as Farmer’s clever cross-kick fell just short of winger Caitlin Gill.

A scrappy ten minutes ensued, with possession exchanging hands frequently as handling errors and loose breakdowns crept into the game. Cambridge dominated at set-pieces, while Oxford struggled to find their footing in the scrum and lost several of their own lineouts. Despite this, ill-discipline prevented the Light Blues from adding to their tally, granting Oxford the ability to control the pace of the affair.

Farmer’s kicking game was impressive, pinning Cambridge in their own half again and again. Meanwhile, Cambridge’s most promising attacks came through Tabbie Brough, with the inside centre making life difficult for the Oxford defence with some hard running and tricky feet.

As the clock ran down, a driving maul allowed winger Bushrod to pile over in the corner to add to Cambridge’s tally. The conversion was missed, however, making the score 15-0 to the home side.

Cambridge scored twelve points in the second halfKane Smith

With the scoreline remaining unchanged at the final whistle, the result didn’t necessarily represent the huge defensive effort that Oxford put in. Nonetheless, Cambridge were deserving winners, as Bleehen’s side were dominant in the scrum and put together some cohesive back moves to ensure both they and the crowd alike left Grange Road in high spirits.

Varsity Player of the Match: Tabbie Brough


Cambridge Starting XV: Laura Bleehen (Girton, Captain)*, Rhiannon Osborne (St Catharine’s)*, Saffron Hicks (Selwyn)*, Cara Prowling (St John’s)*, Sophie Lamont (Corpus Christi), Lauren Gregory (Corpus Christi)*, Sonia Ubong (Darwin), Hilde Schneemann (Darwin)*, Colette Russell (Fitzwilliam)*, Emma Jones (Selwyn)*, Millie Bushrod (Pembroke)*, Tabbie Brough (Queens’)*, Laura Vass (Fitzwilliam), Nancy Twigg (Homerton), Emily Bell (Fitzwilliam)*

Cambridge Replacements: Betty Townley (Corpus Christi), Vianney Gomezgill (St Edmund’s)*, Bridget Withers (Churchill), Rose Scowen (Magdalene)*, Polly Hipkiss (Queens’), Sibella Egerton (Gonville & Caius), Suzi Pozniak (St Catharine’s)

*Denotes Blue

Oxford Starting XV: Juliette Shorey, Bulak Dale Gaspalinao, Maya Mellor, Eleanor Dunlop, Imogen Kilcoyne, Amber Wilkins, Jessica Abele (Captain), Lauren Webb, Estefanía Ramirez, Stella Farmer, Chloe-Marie Hawley, Rachel Martin (Vice Captain), Amber Kirwan, Caitlin Gill, Isabella Zani

Oxford Replacements: Alice Ardis, Mireia Requena, Maria Mei, Cecilia Bonisch, Kehinde Lawal, Milo Cohen, Laura Simpson, Martha Rigby

Looking ahead for CURUFC Women, they will face Cardiff University next Wednesday (01/12) in their sixth Women’s Premier South fixture of the season. The Light Blues currently sit in fourth place, one spot above today’s Oxford side.

Grange Road will also play host to this year’s Steele-Bodger Match later today (24/11), which will kick off at 3pm and see CURUFC take on a Micky Steele-Bodger XV.