Jacob Taylor’s captaincy began in torrid conditions at Iffley Road on Wednesday evening as the Blues hosted the British Army. Despite the continual downfall of rain and soft surface, both sides endeavoured to play attractive and open rugby.
The early stages of the contest saw both sides battle for territory and possession in the middle third of the field. The home side, which saw 11 Blues in the starting line-up, then managed to gain the upper hand through a series of line-out drives in the Army 22. A resultant penalty left the Army with 14 men as blindside LCpl Koroiyadi saw yellow for an infringement at the breakdown. Further pressure from a tap penalty allowed Nick Gardner (St Anne’s) to show a delicate slight of hand and release Zandy Macdonald (St Peter’s) who dived in under the posts for the opening score of the game. Captain Taylor (Keble) duly converted to give the Blues a 7-0 lead.
Oxford continued to show a willingness to attack from all areas and piled pressure onto the opposition but failed to add to their tally. Shortly before the half-time break, the Army took a midfield penalty quickly and a long kick and chase saw wing Pte Bishop touch down for a try. This was converted by full-back Spr Dixon and left the scores level at 7 – 7 as the sides ran in for the end of the half.
The Blues began the second half with renewed vigour, gained some early momentum with a number of scrums and lineouts in threatening positions. However, the conditions got the better of the side and unforced errors meant that the Army could clear their lines on each occasion. Having done so, their precision in attack showed when a break out from their own half led to Bishop crossing the line for his second try of the game following some simple hands and a good turn of pace. The subsequent conversion by Dixon was unsuccessful and left the score at 12-5.
Both sides tried their best to inject the game with tempo but the conditions curtailed much of the ambition and led to both sets of forwards working hard to gain yards around the breakdown. Despite a brief respite from the rain, neither side could work their way into further try scoring opportunities. Substitutes were fully utilised as the Blues continued to show ambition in their play, looking to move the ball whenever possible.
The Army managed to capitalise on a penalty in the 68th minute and took their lead to 15-7 with a penalty form Dixon, leaving the Blues in search of two scores for victory. They couldn’t manage this unfortunately and, despite their best efforts to chase down a victory, were left with a 15-7 defeat at the final whistle.
It was a positive start to Jacob Taylor’s tenure and will offer him plenty to ponder as his players battled fiercely under testing circumstances. He will undoubtedly be pleased at how well they acquitted themselves in the face of both trying weather and an organised opposition. The Blues travel to Bristol next Wednesday night.
Team Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Michael Hannah, Graeme MacGilchrist, Will Rowlands, Chris Williams, Alexander Macdonald, Fraser Heathcote, Matthew Shorthose, Jacob Taylor, Sam Dumigan, Matt Janney, Henry Hughes, Edward Doe, Pietie Olivier
Subs Alex Koo (on for Nick Gardner), Dean Irvine (on for Lewis Anderson), Ben Symington (on for Michael Hannah), Steven Patch (on for Graeme MacGilchrist), Julien Morlet (on for Chris Williams), Henry de Berker (on for Matthew Shorthose)
Scores T: Alexander Macdonald (1) C: Jacob Taylor (1)