A much changed Blues side were taught a hard rugby lesson by a young but extremely talented Northampton Saints outfit at Iffley Road on Tuesday night. With the Oxford coaching team electing to rest some senior player and give opportunities to others, particularly with no Greyhounds fixture this week, this was always going to be a tough ask when the Saints stepped in at the last minute to replace Nottingham who had to withdraw because of injuries. The visitors made their intentions very clear from the outset that they would play the game with pace and power, alongside an accuracy the Blues found hard to match. The score at the interval reflected the gulf in class as Saints scored nine tries, with fly-half Will Hooley (England U20s) converted five to make the score 55 nil. The tries came form full-back Tom Collins (2), wing Howard Packman (2), wing Josh Skelcey (2), scrum-half Joel Hodgson, hooker Matti Williams and flanker Lewis Ludlam.
The second half saw the Blues make some significant changes to their side with prop Lewis Anderson and fly-half George Cullen entering the fray and they certainly helped to shore up the defence and bring some structure to the attack. Indeed it was Oxford who scored first after the break, when Cullen kicked to the corner from a penalty and a well constructed catch and drive line-out resulted in Oxford’s flanker Gus Jones being driven over, Cullen unluckily hit the post with the conversion. Saints hit back almost straight away when Packman scored his third try, centre Harry Mallinder converting. Oxford then enjoyed their best period of the match when they managed to secure some possession which allowed them to test the Northampton defence and a wonderful chip to the corner from Cullen saw Jones rise high above the opposition to pluck the ball out of the air and crash over for his second try. Unfortunately, Northampton had the last word when replacement wing Will Lovell went over for a converted try in the corner to make the final score 74 points to 10.
Next Monday the Blues welcome Wasps to Iffley Road, kick off 7.15pm, in what will be another tough encounter on their road to Twickenham on Thursday 11th December.
Team James Scaife, Nick Gardner, Guy Western, Fergus Taylor, Sam Peter, Graeme MacGilchrist, Gus Jones, Will Thomas, Matt Geiger, Christopher Goodfellow, Will Boardman, Basil Strang, Sam Mason, Edward Doe, Jacob Taylor
Subs Tom Quayle (on for Nick Gardner), Lewis Anderson (on for Guy Western), Ben Symington (on for James Scaife), Tom Hilton-Stevens (on for Fergus Taylor), Ralph Weir (on for Graeme MacGilchrist), Henry de Berker (on for Matt Geiger), George Cullen (on for Will Boardman), Alastair Adams-Cairns (on for Jacob Taylor)
Scores T: Gus Jones (2)