Last year’s Steele-Bodger Match was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemicJoseph Hill

On Wednesday afternoon (24/11), Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC) was defeated by Steele-Bodger XV in the annual Steele-Bodger Match at Grange Road. The score finished 14-21.

The historic fixture was returning for the first time since 2019, where CURUFC won 34-19. Traditionally, the match was used as a send-off for students prior to facing Oxford University at Twickenham in the Varsity Match but, with the Battle of the Blues moved to Saturday 2nd April next year, the game now provides an exciting break in the Michaelmas term.

The Light Blues went into the match on the back of two wins and one defeat so far this season, besting both Pringle Farm Pillagers and Exeter Chiefs under-23s before falling to defeat against Durham University.

Speaking in the run-up to the event, CURUFC head coach James Shanahan reflected on his side’s recent form: “We’ve had two good performances and Durham was a little bit disappointing. We’ve blooded a lot of new boys, there are quite a lot of youngsters coming through. I’m pretty happy”.

Looking ahead to the spring, Shanahan explained: “Building toward April instead of December, it’s been quite nice and refreshing. The pressure is off, so to speak, and I think the boys have quite enjoyed that”. He added: “Maybe the more time we have to build will give us a better chance in April”.

Turning to the action in the much-anticipated affair, Cambridge started on the front foot, with full-back Alex King breaking from inside his own half after barely two minutes on the clock before being tackled at the 22.

A hectic opening saw Steele-Bodger XV winger Craig Dowsett intercept a pass in his side’s own territory, looking certain to score before the rapid Tim Andrew produced a moment of defensive brilliance, chasing him down over sixty yards before bringing him down just short of the Cambridge try line.

As the Bodger’s grew into the game, they began to play more fluid rugby, with the half-back partnership of former Blue Chris Bell and Matt Hodgson marshalling the game well. Their offloading in particular impressed, moving the ball quickly and forcing Cambridge to work hard in defence.

The visitors broke the deadlock in the eighth minute, as number 8 Will Hodgson piled over to leave the Light Blues 0-7 down early on.

Despite the setback, Cambridge’s Archie Smeaton was as dangerous as ever, bursting through tackles on numerous occasions. Not to be outdone by his colleague in the forwards, Suwi Chibale remained the Light Blues’ primary outlet in the backs, consistently causing the Bodger’s centres problems.

Cambridge’s number 10, Jamie Benson, who made his Premiership debut for Harlequins earlier this month (13/11), impressed with his kicking and went on to score Cambridge’s first try, showcasing electric feet to weave in between four defenders and dot down in the 34th minute. He added the extras himself to level the score.

Grange Road was operating at full capacity for the historical fixtureBeth Wright

However, parity would not last long, as Bodger’s full-back Jon Searle scored at the other end after several minutes of pressure. A difficult kick from near the touchline was slotted with relative ease by Matt Hodgson to make it 7-14 at the half-time whistle.

The Bodger’s picked up where they left off as they began the second half brightly, with Bell catching Cambridge unaware and darting down the sideline, but his speculative offload came to nothing.

After a fast-paced first half, the tempo in the early stages of the second dropped slightly. Cambridge’s Andrew came close, only to be denied by a great tackle from opposite number Dowsett.

The hosts struggled to convert territory into points, spending the first fifteen minutes of the 40 deep into the Bodger’s half to no avail. Meanwhile, the Bodger’s commitment to free-flowing rugby and offloading in the tackle was their downfall on several occasions, with a promising field position being lost due to a loose offload.

The second half stalemate continued, both sides resolute in defence and often scrappy when attacking. Benson’s quick feet offered up the best chance of the half after 65 minutes, slipping in Max Loveridge whose pass to Andrew fell just behind the winger who only had one man to beat.

Cambridge finally scored in the 70th minute, with Andrew once again on the scoresheet after displaying blistering pace to carve open the Bodger’s defence and score under the posts. Benson, faced with the simplest of kicks, made no mistake in levelling the scores at 14-14 with ten minutes left on the clock.

But once again, the Bodger’s hit back almost immediately, with replacement Alex Brown producing a moment of magic to break through the Cambridge defensive line, Will Kelly converted to make it 14-21 to the away side.


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After a sluggish half an hour, the Bodger’s looked to jolt into action, almost adding to their tally minutes later if not for Chibale holding the ball up well on the try line. Inside-centre Sol Hyde made good ground each time he received the ball, while Bodger’s forwards proved too powerful in the scrum for Cambridge to deal with.

As the final whistle chimed around a packed Grange Road, the game ended with the Bodger’s still seven points to the good. Moments of battling brilliance from both sides punctuated a tense affair. The Bodger’s edged it, however, which was a fair result given some of the rugby on display from the invitational side.

Varsity Player of the Match : Chris Bell (Steele-Bodger XV)


Cambridge Starting XV: 1 Danny Collins (Fitzwilliam)*, James Wright (Jesus), Matt Pettit (Clare)*, Charlie Friend (St John’s), Zac Bischoff (St John’s)*, Tom Walton (St John’s, Captain)*, Stephen Leonard (Emmanuel)*, Archie Smeaton (Queens’)*, David Holdroyd (Jesus), Jamie Benson (Downing), Tim Andrew (Jesus), Max Loveridge (Jesus)*, Suwi Chibale (Queens’)*, Dougal Russell (St John’s)*, Alex King (St Catharine’s)

Cambridge Replacements: Luke Parry (Downing)*, Ben Jackson (Sidney Sussex)*, Paddy Harris (Hughes Hall), Matt West (St John’s)*, Hugo Lloyd-Williams (St John’s)*, Demi Obembe (Churchill)*, Charles Favell (Homerton)*, Sam Odu (Gonville & Caius), Angus McIntosh (Jesus)

*Denotes Blue

Steele-Bodger Starting XV: Matt Meek (Blackheath), Miles Huppatz (Shelford), Josh Scott (Heriots), Jack Lee (Worthing Raiders), Chris Wearmouth (Tynedale), Ollie Smart (Blackheath), Daniel Dass (Blackheath), Will Hodgson (North Walsham), Chris Bell (Blackheath), Matt Hodgson (North Walsham), Craig Dowsett (Saracens Amateurs), Sol Hyde (Durham University), Etienne Dussartre (RC Vincennes), Nick Foster (Blackheath), Jon Searle (Exeter University)

Steele-Bodger Replacements: Ben Halgh (Tynedale), Ciaran Moore (Clifton), Kay Minkiewicz (Old Albanians), Callum Anthony (North Walsham), Will Kelly (Toronto Arrows)