Oxford University fell to a 15-22 defeat against Welsh invitational team Crawshays despite an encouraging second-half comeback.
The Blues looked to recover from a loss against the Army last time out but George Messum was unable to lead his side to victory in his first game as Captain at Iffley Road. Second-half tries from Sam Howard and Ben Symington brought Oxford to within seven points of their Welsh opponents but it was a controlling first period from the Crawshays that was the deciding factor. The Crawshays dominated early possession and lock Matthew Screech got his side off to a flying start with two tries, both converted by full-back Morgan Williams, in the opening 20 minutes. Both times the Dragons lock powered his way over form short range.
Oxford had trouble holding onto the ball and a couple of unfortunate knock-ons scuppered the attacking momentum. After two of failed try attempts the Blues were forced to kick for goal when George Cullen converted a straight-forward penalty in the 12th minute. The Blues started to gain confidence and territory but an incredible last ditch tackle on Ed Doe who was inches from the line denied the Blues their first try on the half-hour mark. Crawshays scrum-half Luc Jones was sin binned for a technical offence but more handling errors meant that the Blues could not take advantage of the extra man. With a minute left before the break Crawshays centre Jordan Howells slotted home a drop-goal to extend the advantage to 14 points at the interval.
The second half saw the Crawshays start brightly from the kick-off when a strong drive broke the Oxford resistance to score their third try of the game from hooker Henry Palmer, which went unconverted. Just minutes after, George Cullen had to rescue the Blues with great defending to stop Morgan Williams in his tracks who was close to lengthening the lead. The try-saving tackle lifted Oxford spirits and the side played with a new found confidence. Two tries in five minutes from flanker Sam Howard and prop Ben Symington reduced the deficit to just seven points. But ultimately the come-back was too little, too late and when an Oxford penalty came to nothing with just two minutes remaining it was clear that the Crawshays were going to hold on for a notable 22 points to 15 victory.
After the game Captain George Messum saw some definite positives in the performance and felt his side could have come away with a victory. “In hindsight I think we probably gave them a bit too much respect in the opening stages and allowed them two soft tries,” Messum told OURFC.org, “Once we started to get into the game we played very well and achieved a lot, as you can see from our second-half comeback. If we had held our composure a little more, and tightened up our ball control, I think we could have put a lot more points on the board”.
Team Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Ben Symington, Fergus Taylor, Graeme MacGilchrist, Sam Howard, Fraser Heathcote, George Messum, Henry de Berker, George Cullen, Matt Geiger, Basil Strang, Henry Lamont, Edward Doe, Jacob Taylor
Subs Daniel Radigan (on for Lewis Anderson), Ralph Weir (on for Sam Howard), Alexander Macdonald (on for Basil Strang), Ed David (on for Matt Geiger), Hugo Lu, George Summerton, Sam Mason, Oliver Shorthose, John Glancy
Scores T: Ben Symington (1), Sam Howard (1) C: George Cullen (1) P: George Cullen (1)
Oxford play their final home game of the season next Wednesday (4th March) against the HSBC Penguins, kick-off at 7:30pm. The match also has added significance as the Blues are kicking off their fundraising campaign for Winston’s Wish who will be our charity partner during the 2015/16 season. As part of the fundraising activities on the day, the club will hold an exclusive jersey auction of the one of the Jack Wills OURFC playing jerseys, with proceeds going to Winston’s Wish.
Tickets for the game can be bought on the day, and will be available at Iffley Road for £5 and (£2 for concessions – Over 60s, U18s and Students).