Oxford University made the most of their numerical advantage as they came out with an impressive 24-10 victory against Premiership opposition, London Wasps in front of a great crowd on a clear autumnal Monday night.
A man-of-the-match performance from the captain Jacob Taylor helped earn Oxford the win in a match that defined the saying “a game of two halves”. Taylor scored a stunning try in the second-half which complemented tries from Sam Egerton and George Messum. George Cullen converted all three tries as well as scoring the opening points from a penalty which aided the Blues convincing win.
The game got underway with particular venom when Jacob Taylor was hit hard from a high tackle from Ollie Evans leaving the Blues captain in need of serious attention. Evans earned himself a straight red card just two minutes into the game giving the Wasps an uphill battle for the majority of the match.
Oxford were forced into an early substitute after just 10 minutes with number 8, Fraser Heathcote replaced by Will Thomas who made a solid impact upon the game.
There were few chances to note in the opening encounters. Oxford forced the best opening when George Cullen brilliantly chased down a drop kick which allowed Jacob Taylor to run onto the ball having outstripped the Wasps back-line but it ran just too quick even for Taylor and the Wasps were let off.
Oxford looked a particular threat from the scrum and a quarter of the way through the game the Blues forced a penalty straight-under the posts from 25 metres out – George Cullen took full advantage and converted to put the Blues 3-0 in the lead.
From the restart the Wasps looked to make an instant response with a prolonged spell of pressure on the Blues try-line. A couple of Oxford defensive errors allowed the Wasps to have scrum after scrum and power towards the try-line. Lewis Anderson was sent to the sin-bin for persistent fouling and eventually the Wasps made their pressure count, despite a strong Blues defence, as Will Stuart bundled over from a metre out. Harry Shepard, who looked poor throughout the game, sent the conversion wide which gave the Wasps a slender lead of 2 points into the final 15 minutes of the first half.
George Cullen took an ambitious penalty just inside the Wasps half but his kick fell short. This proved to be only a brief respite for Oxford as the Wasps continued their momentum to increase their lead. Harry Sheppard had another chance to extend the Wasps lead but his penalty from 30 metres lacked accuracy and Oxford were let off.
Against the run of play, Matt Janney took full advantage of a Wasps mistake from a line-out and made an inspired run from 35 metres beating four Wasps players as he went. He was finally stopped only for Sam Egerton to pick up the loose ball and charge in to score Oxford’s first try of the night. George Cullen successfully converted to give the Oxford a solid 10-5 lead at half time.
For all of the Wasps domination in the first half they trailed as they started the second half. Oxford made the Wasps pay as they achieved near total command in the second-half, controlling the possession and removing any mistakes from their first half performance.
Within the first 10 minutes of the restart Oxford’s lead was stretched when Jacob Taylor showed remarkable speed and acceleration down the left wing as he beat off challenges from the Wasps back-line. The captain then dummied a pass which allowed a space to open and Taylor sprinted over the try-line to score Oxford’s second. Cullen then converted from under the posts to increase the Blues lead to 17-5.
Oxford continued to show their class in the second half. A strong drive from a 5 metre scrum put Oxford within a metre of the try line before George Messum dived over the line. Cullen made it four kicks from four which gave the Blues a convincing 24-5 lead.
Squad rotation was key for Oxford as they continue to test out players in preparation for the Varsity match in just over a month. The Blues made 7 changes in the second half as Strang, MacGilchrist, de Berker, Goodfellow, Scaife, Quayle and Western all came off the bench and put in good performances.
With the clock ticking towards the 80th minute London Wasps enjoyed a good spell of pressure. After many phases the Oxford line was finally breached as the ball was quickly played out wide on the left for replacement Callum Sirker to sprint home and score the try. There was no time for the conversion however and the Blues ended up with a resounding 24-10 win.
Report by, David Lewis.
Team Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Ian Williams, Tom Reeson-Price, Sam Peter, George Messum, Gus Jones, Fraser Heathcote, Samson Egerton, George Cullen, Henry Lamont, Alexander Macdonald, Matt Janney, Edward Doe, Jacob Taylor
Subs Tom Quayle (on for Nick Gardner), James Scaife (on for Lewis Anderson), Guy Western (on for Ian Williams), Graeme MacGilchrist (on for Sam Peter), Will Thomas (on for Fraser Heathcote), Henry de Berker (on for Samson Egerton), Basil Strang (on for Edward Doe), Christopher Goodfellow (on for George Cullen)
Scores T: George Messum (1), Samson Egerton (1), Jacob Taylor (1) C: George Cullen (3) P: George Cullen (1)