Oxford University had a slightly disappointing end to their Varsity preparation with a 36-21 loss away to Esher Cardinals, but there were many positives to take from this fixture.
The Blues raced into a 21 point lead after half-time, tries from George Cullen, Jacob Taylor and Sam Peter. But a mass of second-half substitutions disrupted Oxford’s rhythm and allowed Esher to mount an incredible comeback in the last half hour. In a quiet first half it was George Cullen who opened the scoring in the 19th minute with a simple converted try under the posts. A clever blindside pass by Henry Lamont allowed the fly-half to break free of the Esher back-line. Esher responded with a prolonged spell of territory but the Blues back-line, which has impressed throughout the campaign, held strong and denied an immediate reply. Once more this season Oxford were imposing at the scrum and over-powered Esher throughout the game. Just after the break Henry Lamont was again the provider with a brilliant cross field run that penetrated the Esher defence to set up Blues captain Jacob Taylor to extend the Oxford lead. Two minutes later Henry Hughes kicked long and the ball bounced kindly for Sam Peter to sprint home and score his second try of the season. With a comfortable lead in the match the Oxford coach James Wade made ten changes, giving a number of the squad players a run-out in the last game before Varsity. The Cardinals forced an immediate response with five tries in the second half to lead them to an incredible comeback. Esher’s left-wing was the pick of the Cardinals players, scoring two tries and setting up another.
After the game James Wade remained pleased with his side’s performance despite the miserable second half showing. “We had a really strong first 50 minutes of the game,” Wade said, “I changed things up later on to rest some legs going into Varsity next week, but I thought we did well to rack up a convincing lead”.
The Dark Blues now have an 11 day wait until the 133rd Varsity Match in which they will be looking to grab their fifth victory in a row against Cambridge – an Oxford record.
Wade spoke with confidence looking ahead to Varsity. “We have a fully fit squad,” claimed Wade, “all the players are reaching their peak at the right time and are raring to get to Twickenham on the 11th”.
Tickets for the game at Twickenham are still available to buy via thevarsitymatch.com
David Lewis, OURFC Press Officer
Team Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Ian Williams, Fergus Taylor, Graeme MacGilchrist, Fraser Heathcote, Gus Jones, George Messum, Samson Egerton, George Cullen, Edward Doe, Alexander Macdonald, Henry Lamont, Henry Hughes, Jacob Taylor
Subs James Wisson (on for Nick Gardner), James Scaife (on for Lewis Anderson), Guy Western (on for Ian Williams), Sam Peter (on for Fraser Heathcote), Will Thomas (on for George Messum), Henry de Berker (on for Samson Egerton), Basil Strang (on for Alexander Macdonald), Christopher Goodfellow (on for George Cullen), Matt Geiger (on for Jacob Taylor), Tom Hilton-Stevens (on for Fergus Taylor), Alastair Adams-Cairns (on for Edward Doe), Jack Calvert (on for Henry Lamont), Jonathan Marsden (on for Graeme MacGilchrist), Tom Quayle, Antony Kalindjian
Scores T: Sam Peter (1), George Cullen (1), Jacob Taylor (1) C: George Cullen (3)