Saturday saw a perfect afternoon for rugby as OURFC took on Croatia in their final 15-a-side fixture of the season at Iffley Road. Whilst the fixture was in the middle of the Easter vacation, Oxford were able to put out a useful team with ten Blues in the starting XV with Croatia using this as warm-up for European Nations 2A fixtures with the Netherlands and Lithuania in the following two weeks. It was obvious from the kick off that both sides had come to play an expansive attractive style of rugby, as within ten minutes of the start both sides had spurned very kickable penalty opportunities. Both sides appeared a little rusty having not played for a few weeks so there were plenty of turn overs from mistakes, but this only lead to further excitement for the appreciates crowd as the play went from end to end in a matter of seconds! Defences were however pretty good and it wasn’t until the 25th minute when Oxford managed to cross for the first score, when second row Graeme MacGilchrist (University) was driven over following a series of pick and drives from the Blues forwards. Fly-half Matt Shorthose (University) was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt. Croatia then showed their mettle and hit back within 5 minutes, when they turned down another penalty opportunity to kick to the corner, from where they set up a catch and rive with No 8 and Captain Toni Buzov forcing his way over to the delight of his teammates. Fly-half Jai Ayoub added the extras. Just before half-time, Oxford were pressing the visitors line and looked certain to score, when the Croatian full-back intercepted a pass on his own goal-line to race 90 metres to score, with a ‘Chris Ashton Splash’ to celebrate as he dived in under the posts, Ayoub again added the straight forward conversion which made the score at the break 14 – 5 in favour of the visitors.
Coach James Wade had stern words with the Blues at half time regarding ball retention and his thoughts appeared to be heeded as the Blues started the half with purpose and soon narrowed the gap to 4 points when flanker Zandy Macdonald (St Peter’s), captaining the side in the absence of Jacob Taylor (Keble) finished off a fine attacking movement that involved backs and forwards interchanging passes from deep within their own half. Shorthose was once again unsuccessful with the touchline conversion. Shortly after this score, Croatia by now sensing that they had a chance of victory, elected to kick a penalty, with Ayoub receiving treatment for injury at this point, scrum-half Jason Newton coolly slotted the goal to extend their lead to 7 points. Oxford the started to turn the screw with dominance at scrum-time leading to plentiful possession and appeared to be just a matter of time before they scored again and sure enough with 10 minutes left on the clock the referee awarded the home side a penalty try from a 5 metre scrum, which Shorthose converted from in front of the posts. With the clock ticking down to 70 minutes, the referee awarded Oxford a penalty in front of the posts and the opportunity to steal the win; however it was not to be as Shorthose again missed form the tee. Just 3 minutes later the referee blew for full time with the scores tied at 17 points all, perhaps a fitting finale to an exciting afternoon’s rugby.
Team James Scaiffe, James Wisson, Lewis Anderson, Graeme MacGilchrist, Will Rowlands, Gus Jones, Alexander Macdonald, Tom Reeson-Price, Henry de Berker, Matthew Shorthose, Sam Dumigan, Henry Hughes, Samson Egerton, Oakley Cox, Edward Doe
Subs Alex Koo (on for James Wisson), Michael Hannah (on for James Scaiffe), Julien Morlet (on for Alexander Macdonald), John Davidson (on for Henry Hughes), Will Boardman (on for Sam Dumigan), Ben Symington, George Vaughan, Harry Beale
Scores T: Alexander Macdonald (1), Graeme MacGilchrist (1) C: Matthew Shorthose (1)