Missed conversions proved costly for both sides in their pursuit of victoryMatt Impey

Taking to the Twickenham field earlier this afternoon (2/4), Cambridge and Oxford produced a gruelling stalemate in this year’s Women’s Varsity Match, ending all square at 10-10. 

A late try from Cambridge’s Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik evened the score, but Laura Vass’s narrow miss on the conversion resulted in the tie finishing all square.

The Light Blues were largely favourites going into the matchup, having won the previous four fixtures, while Oxford’s 3-0 win in 2016 was their last Varsity win.

Last year’s fixture saw Cambridge defeat Oxford 10-5 at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium in Leicester. More recently, the Light Blues defeated their darker shade of opposition in the inaugural Women’s 88’s match, while Oxford got their revenge in February’s 12-10 BUCS victory.

The Varsity Match returned to Twickenham after a three-year, Covid-enforced absence.

The Light Blues experienced mixed fortunes in their 2021-22 season, finishing fourth in the Women’s Premier (South) division, as well as making it to the semi-finals of the National Vase.

Captain Laura Bleehen’s side boasted the greater Varsity experience, with thirteen returning Blues in their squad to Oxford’s six. The Dark Blues, however, had Colombian international player Estefania Ramirez Castillo slotting in at scrum-half. Castillo represented her country in various tournaments between 2015 and 2016, including the women’s sevens team at the 2016 Rio Games.

Turning to the Twickenham clash, kick and drive was the order of the day for Cambridge, as they particularly worked the left-hand side of Oxford’s 22.

Good defensive work from the Dark Blues, however, allowed them to absorb the pressure, as Cambridge got their forward pack on the ball to suffocate the defence. A Lauren Webb interception from the line-out finally gave the Dark Blues some breathing room.

Oxford won the first scrum of the game after a sloppy, overenthusiastic push from Cambridge, but the strength was definitely there on the Light Blue front row.

Ten minutes in, a lot of the game was still being played in the Oxford 22, but the Dark Blue defence held strong in the face of Cambridge’s domination of possession.

The game’s opening try came in the 16th minute, with Hetta Friend bundling over for Cambridge. A quick tap from scrum-half Emilia Bushrod was then handed off to Lauren Gregory, kickstarting the attacking passage that saw the Light Blues draw first blood at 5-0. Laura Vass missed the extras, while Oxford captain and Varsity veteran Jessica Abele took to the sin bin.

Hetta Friend scored the game’s opening try in her second Varsity appearanceMatt Impey

Oxford nearly answered back immediately down the right-hand side, as Clodagh Holmes opened up the Cambridge defence only to be brought down by a brilliant tackle from full-back Emily Bell.

After some quiet play following the first try, an Oxford breakthrough saw Chloe-Marie Hawley burst through to the Cambridge try line but to no reward, as referee Nia Parsonage called a forward pass on Alex Travers in the build up.

Just five minutes later, another forward pass denied Holmes and Oxford their first points, but the warning signs were there for Cambridge as the first half drew to a close.

It was the third time’s a charm for Oxford though, as they finally reaped the benefits of their camping out in Cambridge’s 22 through Megan Isaac. Like Bushrod earlier in the half, a quick tap from Estefania Ramirez Castillo led to a great pop pass out of the ruck and opened the door for Isaac. Abele, who had never taken a kick from the tee before, narrowly fired wide, leaving it 5-5 at the break.

Oxford came out for the second half in feisty fashion, resuming their dangerous spot in the Cambridge 22.

Emilia Bushrod in action for CambridgeMatt Impey

A great cover tackle for the Light Blues from Nancy Twigg denied Oxford their second, but Webb soon crossed the line in the 42nd minute after some great leg drive to make it 10-5 to the underdogs. Abele again missed the extras.

The Dark Blues last tallied double figures back in 2014, which they went on to win 10-4 at Iffley Road.

Cambridge responded with their own expedition into the opposition’s 22, forcing Oxford to put their shoulders to the mill and produce some stonewall defending.

A brief stoppage in play fell on the stroke of the 61st minute, as substitute Robyn Halcrow devastatingly picked up a suspected ACL injury. With fist in air and both thumbs up, she injected life into the Cambridge crowd from her moving stretcher.

As play resumed, the Light Blues had twenty minutes to change their fortunes, while Oxford’s Lauren Webb continued to put in an immaculate defensive shift.

Cambridge’s Elise Goddard came agonisingly close to scoring with ten minutes left, but a dropped ball ended in Oxford getting the penalty in their favour and breathing a sigh of relief.


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In the 72nd minute, Welsh scrum-half Bushrod tried to catch Oxford out once again with a quick tap, leading to Cambridge’s Rose Scowen bundling over in what looked like the equaliser. The referee, however, said otherwise, calling the play back for a forward pass.

Cambridge sustained their pressure in the closing moments. An Oxford knock-on at the base of the scrum helped Cambridge in their search for points, which concluded with Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik claiming the all-important try.

A drive from Sonia Ubong forced Oxford’s Webb, who hadn’t put a defensive foot wrong all afternoon, to stray offside, allowing Yaspik to seize the opportunity in the 74th minute.

As silence infused the cavernous Twickenham ground, Vass marginally missed the extras after huge pressure came from the Oxford runners. The score read 10-10 with five to go.

The last play of the day fell to Cambridge, but a forward pass spelled an end to the tie, leaving the Light and Dark Blues to share a draw for the first time in the fixture’s history. Cambridge, however, retain the Varsity silverware for the fifth year in a row.


Cambridge Starting XV: Emily Bell (Fitzwilliam)*, Colette Russell (Fitzwilliam)*, Laura Vass (Fitzwilliam), Tabbie Brough (Queens’)*, Nancy Twigg (Homerton), Emma Jones (Selwyn)*, Emilia Bushrod (Pembroke)*, Laura Bleehen (Captain, Girton)*, Saffron Hicks (Selwyn)*, Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik (St Edmund’s)*, Hilde Schneemann (Darwin)*, Hetta Friend (Robinson)*, Rose Scowen (Magdalene)*, Sophie Lamont (Corpus Christi), Lauren Gregory (Corpus Christi)*

Cambridge Replacements: Bridget Withers (Churchill), Sophie Johnson (Pembroke), Cara Prowling (St John’s)*, Sonia Ubong (Darwin), Robyn Halcrow (Fitzwilliam), Sibella Egerton (Gonville & Caius), Dorothy Burrowes (Trinity Hall), Elise Goddard (Pembroke), Polly Hipkiss (TR, Queens’)

Oxford Starting XV: Clodagh Holmes*, Chloe-Marie Hawley, Alex Travers*, Caitlin Gill, Kehinde Lawal, Milo Cohen*, Estefania Ramirez Castillo, Juliette Shorey, Rachel Martin, Maya Mellor*, Imoben Kilcoyne, Josie Osborne, Jessica Abele (Captain)*, Lauren Webb, Megan Isaac*

Oxford Replacements: Alice Ardis, Zoe Harper, Amber Wilkins, Lottie Fry, Emily Blake, Tabitha Preston, Isabella Zani, Lily-Mae Phillips, Mireia Requena Serra (TR)

*Denotes Blue

Referee: Nia Parsonage