The Blues completed a hugely successful Russian tour with a 42 points to 5 victory over RC Slava, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Moscow. With the squad well rested after their fast train journey from Saint Petersburg to Moscow on the Friday, Captain Jacob Taylor and Head Coach James Wade were able to select from a position of strength with only flanker George Messum ruled out with a quad strain. Recently arrived hooker Nick Gardner was chosen to lead the side for the first time. The match could not have started any better for the visitors as within 2 minutes of the kick off flanker Sam Peter had crossed in the corner, following a fine passage of play started deep in the Blues half before the rangy back-row forward finished off the move in the corner. Fly-half George Cullen, who enjoyed a fine afternoon with the boot, added the difficult touch-line conversion. With the Oxford forwards securing good set piece possession half backs Henry de Berker and Cullen were sable to pull the strings and bring the three quarters effectively in to play and were rewarded sooner after when centre Matt Janney stepped his opposite number before rounding the full-back for a classy finish, Cullen was again on target. Next to score was de Berker, when the Oxford eight secured a scrum turnover and the lively scrum-half nipped down the blind side to go over untouched by the posts, Cullen adding the straight forward conversion. When Slava did have possession the Oxford defence was resolute and committed and twice they repelled well rehearsed catch and drive line-outs to keep their line intact. With half-time approaching Oxford turned the screw, when first wing Henry Hughes was put clear by Cullen to go over near the sticks and then Cullen himself scoring a try with a neat show and go that the Slava defence fell for hook, line and sinker! Cullen easily slotted both kicks to take his personal tally at the break to 15 and Oxford’s lead to 35 points to nil. When Matt Janney added his second try not 5 minutes into the second half, converted by Cullen, a real thrashing looked on the cards for the home side, but with some changes made they upped the intensity considerably and perhaps Oxford eased off a fraction as the heat and hard work of the last two weeks started to tell. Slava enjoyed a strong final 30 minutes but the Blues defence held firm except for one solo long range effort from the home side’s young left wing to make the final score 42 points to 5. So concluded the tour on the field, but not quite the end of the tour as the Russian hosts put on a wonderful post-match reception and After Party, which will be remembered (or not) by all those present. The Blues flew home on Sunday to enjoy a few days of rest before preparing for their first home match when they host the Newport Gwent Dragons at Iffley Road on Tuesday 30th September, 715pm kick off.
Team Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Ian Williams, Graeme MacGilchrist, Fergus Taylor, Sam Peter, Julien Morlet, Fraser Heathcote, Henry de Berker, George Cullen, Henry Hughes, Alexander Macdonald, Matt Janney, Henry Lamont, Will Boardman
Subs James Wisson (on for Nick Gardner), James Scaiffe (on for Lewis Anderson), Guy Western (on for Ian Williams), Will Thomas (on for Sam Peter), Ralph Weir (on for Graeme MacGilchrist), Matt Geiger (on for Henry de Berker), Christopher Goodfellow (on for Will Boardman), Christopher Mansfield (on for Henry Hughes)
Scores T: Matt Janney (2), Sam Peter (1), George Cullen (1), Henry de Berker (1), Henry Hughes (1) C: George Cullen (6)