The Blues travelled to Aldershot on Wednesday night for their annual encounter with the might of the British Army who are in the early stages of their preparation for the 2015 Inter-Services Competition. Recently elected OURFC Captain George Messum (St Anne’s) took charge of the team on the field for the first time with a mix of experience and youth at his disposal with 12 Blues names in the squad. Conditions were perfect, if a little chilly for the spectators and both teams showed intent from the off to play with ball in hand and to test defences with strong running and sure handling. However, somewhat surprisingly the first points of the match came from the boot, with the Army full-back converting a straight forward penalty after just 5 minutes. Oxford who enjoyed a very strong first half where they scored all their points, hit back soon after, when second row Fergus Taylor in his first match since Varsity, crashed over from short range with fly-half Basil Strang adding the conversion. The Army replied with a second penalty from their full-back, who enjoyed a faultless night with the boot to narrow the gap to just one point. Oxford then scored their second try when right wing Henry Hughes, deftly kicked around his opposite man to win the race to touch down, this time Strang was unsuccessful with extras. In true Army fashion they hit back almost immediately when a turn over in their own 22 saw the ball moved quickly to the wing, where one of their Fijian flyers raced fully 70 metres, beating the desperate cover defence to score near the post for an easy conversion. Oxford were not fased by this break away try and once again gained good field position to set up young Fresher Sam Howard, who enjoyed another fine game in the Oxford back-row for a well deserved try in just his second appearance for the Blues. Strang once again was successful off the tee and the score at half-time was 19-13 in favour of the visitors.
Unfortunately the Blues were unable to repeat their first half efforts in the second period and with the Army using their strong bench to good effect kept the Oxford team scoreless in the second 40 minutes. Oxford did have a great chance to extend their lead 5 minutes after the restart, but despite an excellent 70 metre break involving a number of players they were unable to finish the move and with it went their best chance of the second half. The Army then took advantage of this miss to score a converted try of their own, a second for the flying Fijian wing, before the full-back kicked his their penalty to extend their lead to 4 points. However, Oxford remained within a try for the remainder of the half and defended with both determination and organisation to hold the red tide at bay until the very last play of the match when the Army centre slid in by the posts for a converted try to make the final score a rather flattering 30 point to 19 to the home side.
Despite the loss, Oxford took great heart and many positives from the game and now look forward to home fixtures against the invitational sides from Crawshays on the 25th February and Penguins on the 4th March.
Team Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Ian Williams, Fergus Taylor, Graeme MacGilchrist, Sam Howard, Ralph Weir, George Messum, Henry de Berker, Basil Strang, Ed David, Alexander Macdonald, Henry Lamont, Henry Hughes, Matt Geiger
Subs Daniel Radigan (on for Nick Gardner), Hugo Lu (on for Ian Williams), Jonathan Marsden (on for Ralph Weir), Sam Mason (on for Ed David), Oliver Shorthose (on for Henry de Berker), George Summerton, John Glancy
Scores T: Sam Howard (1), Fergus Taylor (1), Henry Hughes (1) C: Basil Strang (2)