After their strong promising performance in Croatia, the Blues returned back to Iffley Road for a run of four home matches leading into the 2015 Varsity Match, starting with Bristol Rugby on Monday night. Conditions were excellent for a November evening in England and both teams showed a desire to keep the ball in hand during the early exchanges, although it took until the 22nd minute for either defence to be breached and that was a penalty try when the Bristol scrum got their just rewards for a dominant set-piece near the Oxford posts, fly-half Callum Sheedy adding the straight forward conversion. Bristol scored a second very different try just minutes later, when a swift and accurate handling movement resulted in right wing George Watkins breaching the home defence to race in from 20 metres, Sheedy was again on target with the extra points. With half-time approaching Bristol score a third try when scrum-half Andy Uren, ‘swallow dived’ over a ruck to touch down by the posts, Sheedy adding the conversion to make the score a rather flattering 21 point to nil in favour of the visitors.
Unfortunately whatever words were said in the home changing room did not hit the ark until the 60th minute, by which time the Bristol centre Nick Carpenter had added two further tries, showing good support play and neat footwork to claim a brace, scrum-half Uren adding one conversion to extend the west country teams lead to a comprehensive 33 point to nil. However, this young Oxford side were not going to take a thrashing and the final 20 minutes saw them score four tries to one and rebuild some confidence. First to score was second row Graeme MacGilchrist (University) who emerged last with the ball to claim a well-constructed driving maul try; despite not being a regular kicker, wing Henry Hughes (Magdalen) stepped up to elegantly stoke over the conversion. The second try was undoubtedly the score of the match and possibly the best of the season, when centre Henry Lamont (New) scythed through the Bristol defence, stepped the full-back before turning on the after burners to outpace the cover defence to dive in under the posts and be instantly swamped by his celebrating teammates! Hughes was again on target off the tee. If this second try was down to guile and pace the third was down to raw power, when Fergus Taylor (St Catherine’s), enjoying another fine game in the second row drove over the line with a couple of Bristol defenders left in his large wake, Hughes was again able to convert. In between Lamont’s and Taylor’s try, Bristol added their sixth try when replacement wing Curtis Matthews outpaced the cover defence to touch down a delicate chip ahead, this try remained unconverted. In the final play of the game, Hughes turned form kicker to try scorer when he finished off a fine attacking move to round his opposite man and score out wide, this time however he was unable to add the finishing touch when his conversion attempt drifted wide to signal full-time and make the final score 38 point to 26 to the visitors.
The Blues now have a week to take stock and look ahead to the annual Major Stanley’s Match on Wednesday 18th November, kick off 3.30pm.
Team Kieran Ball, Richard Halpin, Ian Williams, Fergus Taylor, Graeme MacGilchrist, Nicholas Roberts-Huntley, James Faktor, Fraser Heathcote, Henry de Berker, George Cullen, Henry Hughes, Henry Lamont, Matt Janney, Tom Stileman, Andrew Abraham
Subs William Thornton (on for James Faktor), James Scaife (on for Kieran Ball), George Messum (on for Fraser Heathcote), Matt Geiger (on for Henry de Berker), Ed David (on for Matt Janney), Hugo Lu, Jacob Goss, Guy Fairburn
Scores T: Fergus Taylor (1), Graeme MacGilchrist (1), Henry Lamont (1), Henry Hughes (1) C: Henry Hughes (3)