Bischoff lifts the Cuppers trophyDIK NG

A seasoned vet of both SJCRUFC and CURUFC, it was fitting that Zac Bischoff’s last appearance for the Redboys should be his first Cuppers crown. After tough losses in consecutive semi-finals, and then a year off due to Covid, the win in his fourth and final year is “as sweet as could be” for him. 

And it never looked like going any differently. An early try from hooker Cosmo Summerfield set the tone for a thumping first half performance. Tries from Hugo Lloyd Williams and Bischoff followed, with fly half Ramsay Hodgson converting two out of these three to see John’s enter half-time 19-0 up, in spite of what Bischoff describes as fans from “30 other colleges” chanting in support of Fitz/Sid. 

Fitz/Sid were always going to be up against it with six Blues players in the John’s starting XV, and Blues players Tom Walton and Douglas Russell helped themselves to two tries apiece in the second half. Russell’s second was the pick of the bunch as he rode several tackles to deposit the ball in the left-hand corner of the pitch. Hodgson converted three of these four tries, and partnered this impressive conversion record with near impeccable territorial kicking which meant that Fitz/Sid were penned in their own half for the majority of the match. 

Russell evades Fitz/Sid players on the wingDIK NG

Bischoff identifies what he believes were the keys to their victory. “Our line-outs were the most efficient they’ve been all year,” he begins. “Our forwards were making yards [with] every carry with their physicality and our defence was so attritional that they barely spent a moment in our half.” And in particular he commends wingers James Perman and Tom McAllister, who “cut in half” the Fitz/Sid players when they attempted to use the outside channel to get at the John’s backline.

Personally, as a supporter, the match highlight was a remarkable tackle by John’s diminutive scrum half Hiroaki Endo, who rocketed over and clung on to his opposite number after a scrum had gone awry. This drew the loudest cheers of the match from the spectators, and it was testament to the fearlessness and tenacity of the John’s squad. Endo paired this drive with superb technical ability, and his inch-perfect passing was also central to the fast-paced, flowing rugby that John’s exhibited throughout. 

Walton scoring one of his triesCHRIS FELL

A consolation try was scored in the second half by Tom Ryan for Fitz/Sid, and so the game ended 45-5. Their captain Billy Thomas-Connolly remains proud of his team regardless of the scoreline. Particularly, he praises inside centre Cavan Farrow for a “huge shift” despite carrying an injury. Their run to the final is deserving of a lot of plaudits, and it is unfortunate that they ran into a John’s team possessing such a wealth of players who perform at the university’s highest level. 

Those players were not able to play in league fixtures throughout the year, and Bischoff credits their diligence and dedication with the team’s eventual success. “The senior CURUFC players turning up week-in-week-out to training sessions, coaching the rest of the team” meant that “when we were all allowed to play come Cuppers, the team’s on-field chemistry continued to flow.”


Mountain View

Men’s rugby Cuppers semi finals – match reports

All six of these players graduate at the end of this year, but Bischoff doesn’t reckon that this will disrupt the John’s rugby supremacy. He tells me that “the boys who we’ve had join the club over the past two years have so much raw talent, that now they also have the full league and Cuppers experience under their belts, I have every faith they will again pull together and continue to claim silverware for years to come, as the Redboys have always done!”

So, after a couple of tricky years, the Redboys have reinstated themselves as the college rugby elite of Cambridge - making it, as the headline shows, 12 victories in the last 18 years. The pressure is on the current crop to retain their title next year, which should make for an interesting and unpredictable season next year, as ever. 

Varsity man of the match: Ramsay Hodgson (St. John's)

Elsewhere, the weekend saw three more men’s college rugby competitions come to a conclusion. 

Downing lifts the ShieldDIK NG

Bowl final: Magdalene/Homerton 41-17 Robinson

Shield final: Downing 32-10 Pembroke/Girton

Plate final: Jesus 26-5 Gonville & Caius