At one point in the match, Cambridge led by a hefty margin of 20-0Alex Parnham-Cope

On a fresh but windy afternoon at Grange Road earlier today (16/02), Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC) Women battled to a 35-10 victory over Leeds Beckett University in the first round of the BUCS Women’s National Vase, in what was an exhibition of power, organisation, and resilience.

Captain Laura Bleehen’s side ended their league campaign last week (09/02) with a tough loss to Oxford, falling by a score of just 12-10. Nonetheless, Cambridge achieved fourth in the Women’s Premier (South) division, coming away with an overall record of three wins and seven losses. Given the injury troubles that the Light Blues suffered back in Michaelmas term, the group fought admirably for a well-earned position.

Leeds Beckett had also finished their league run before today’s matchup, finishing fifth in the Women’s Premier (South) division, thus making the contest a fairly even one on paper.

Glancing at team selection, Tabbie Brough returned to inside centre after her fruitful endeavours with Cambridge’s Netball Blues, while the backrow was reorganised with Sonia Ubong starting at openside flanker, Rose Scowen at blindside, and Lauren Gregory at number eight.

Turning to the action on the field, Leeds looked brightest in the first five minutes, making a couple of rare visits to the Cambridge 22. However, by the eighth minute Cambridge were demonstrating their superiority. A good drive by Millie Bushrod, following a quickly taken penalty, led to a neat combination between Emma Jones and Tabbie Brough. Only an unfortunate knock-on prevented what would have been a certain try.

This set the tone for the rest of the match, as one might have been forgiven for thinking that Cambridge had an extra player on the pitch. Time and again Leeds had the ball in their 22 and could not kick it away. Attempts to pass their way out were thwarted on almost every occasion by the power of the Blues’ forwards – exemplified by captain Bleehen – and it was only a matter of time before the ball found its way over the line.

The Blues often overwhelmed Leeds in the scrumAlex Parnham-Cope

The breakthrough came after fourteen minutes. Leeds were sucked into a ruck inside their 22, and Brough, whose movement and decision-making made her a stand-out player for Cambridge, combined neatly with Laura Vass. Vass simply set up Collette Russell to pirouette away from a tackle and get the scoreboard ticking.

The Blues’ forwards continued to dominate their Leeds’ counterparts, at one point pushing a maul more than five metres towards the try line, only stopped by winning a penalty. It wasn’t long before a second try came, scored by Dorothy Burrowes and once again created by Brough.

After a stunning disallowed try for Cambridge on 27 minutes, showcasing the blistering pace of Lauren Gregory who ran the length of the half only for it to be called back for a scrum, Cambridge began to look relaxed. In the 32nd minute, an impressive drive inside the Leeds’ 22 by Brough made room for Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik to jump over the line and through the overwhelmed Leeds defence to make it 15-0.

Cambridge’s superior organisation continued to pay dividends. Their ability to kick the ball long and follow it up with a formidable forward wall was too much for Leeds. After 39 minutes, Rose Scowen got on the scoresheet following a Leeds’ failure, once again, to kick the ball out of danger. After a predictable turnover, Scowen bundled it over the line to make it 20-0.

Eventually, Leeds made their long-awaited return to the Cambridge 22 and scored a try against the run of play to take the game to half time at 20-5. Unfortunately for Leeds, this was not the start of a remarkable comeback.

The story of the second half was much the same. Brough continued to impress, and after just five minutes she had set up Russell to score her second try of the afternoon in the far-left corner.

On the 67-minute mark, Elise Goddard was released into space on the left wing and ran 30 metres down the line to make it 30-5. Leeds were reeling.

Brough then finally got her deserved try, starting and finishing an attack that moved from the well-exploited left flank to directly beneath the posts. Leeds mustered one more try to make it 35-10 before the final whistle ended a dominant Blues display that saw Leeds simply brushed out the way by a home side full of confidence.


Mountain View

First win of the year for Cambridge: CURUFC Women 25-7 Swansea

If Cambridge can carry this form into the next round, where they are set to face Loughborough Women’s 2 in the quarter-finals next Wednesday (23/02), then they’ll be well placed to progress even further in the Vase competition.

Varsity Player of the Match: Tabbie Brough


Cambridge Starting XV: Laura Bleehen (Girton, Captain)*, Saffron Hicks (Selwyn)*, Vianney Gomezgil (St Edmund’s)*, Hilde Schneemann (Darwin)*, Hetta Friend (Robinson)*, Rose Scowen (Magdalene)*, Sonia Ubong (Darwin), Lauren Gregory (Corpus Christi)*, Millie Bushrod (Pembroke)*, Emma Jones (Selwyn)*, Colette Russell (Fitzwilliam)*, Tabbie Brough (Queens’)*, Laura Vass (Fitzwilliam), Dorothy Burrowes (Trinity Hall), Emily Bell (Fitzwilliam)*

Cambridge Replacements: Bridget Withers (Churchill), Sophie Johnson (Pembroke), Cara Prowling (St John’s)*, Robyn Halcrow (Fitzwilliam), Sophie Lamont (Corpus Christi), Elise Goddard (Pembroke), Suzi Pozniak (St Catharine’s)

*Denotes Blue

Leeds Beckett Starting XV: Waddington, Tomlinson (Captain), Bickerdyke, Scholes, Hobbs, Westerlaken (Vice-Captain), Goode, Littlehailes, Coates, Prior, Veitch, Hewitt, Parkinson, Stevens, Cowell

Leeds Beckett Replacements: Ryder, Bek