Following a few days of rain, the weather was kind as the Men’s Blues played their first home game of 2017 when they hosted the Royal Navy at Iffley Road on Tuesday night, with conditions overhead dry and not too cold with the conditions underfoot firm. As such, both teams set out to play with ball in hand which was welcomed by the enthusiastic crowd who enjoyed an entertaining evenings rugby with a total of 39 points scored and the home team earning their first win of the year. However, it was the visitors of who were first to post points on 5 minutes, with a well struck penalty from full-back J Humphrey following a break down penalty. The Blues quickly replied with a swift handing move from right to left, resulting in a try in the corner from left wing Tom Stileman, fly-half Tom Dyer struck his conversion sweetly only to be denied by the cross-bar and the ball bouncing the wrong side of the wood work. With quality possession being supplied in both tight and loose by the forwards the home backs continued to make dents in the Navy defence and on the 20 minute mark replacement wing Dan Barley showed fleet of foot to round his opposite number and touch down in a similar sport to Stileman, Dyer was once again off target with the difficult conversion. 10 minutes later, the Blues extended their lead to 12 points when tight-head prop Hugo Lu burst throw a hole in the Naval defensive line to run score Oxford’s third try, again Dyer couldn’t add the extras. With half-time approaching it looked as though this would end the scoring for the half, but the visitors replied with a good try of their own as they created space for their left wing M Bowden to dive over in the corner, full-back Humphrey added the difficulty conversion to make it a somewhat flattering half-time score of 15 points to 10 in favour of the Blues.
The Navy coaches must have had stern words at the interval, as the visitors came out for the second 40 with renewed purpose, but the home side’s defence remained resolute and did not concede metres or points as the Navy kept the ball alive for long periods in their quest to gain an advantage. Indeed, following this concerted attacking phase of nearly 20 minutes it was the Blues who managed to score the first points of the second period, when Barley added his second try showing neat footwork in a confined space to create room for himself to cross the line, No 8 Will Wilson took over the kicking duties and duly added the conversion to re-establish Oxford’s 12 point advantage. However, as one would expect of the serviceman, they did not roll over and were rewarded late on with a penalty try for a collapse maul, Humphrey again converting to bring them within a converted try of snatching victory. However, the final minutes were played out in the middle third and the Blues deservedly held on to claim the spoils by 22 points to 17.
The Men’s Blues entertain the Welsh Crawshays Invitational XV next Wednesday the 15th February at Iffley Road, kick-off 7.15pm in what will once again be a highly entertaining fixture.
Team Lewis Anderson, Noah Miller, Hugo Lu, Fergus Taylor, Jonathan Marsden, James Beaufils, William Thornton, William Wilson, Tom Kershaw, Tom Dyer, Ed David, Alex Hogg, Jack Holmes, Tom Stileman, Matt Geiger
Subs James Scaife (on for Lewis Anderson), Graeme MacGilchrist (on for Fergus Taylor), Hugo McPherson (on for Jonathan Marsden), Sebastian Haddock (on for Tom Kershaw), Daniel Barley (on for Jack Holmes), Robbie Fraser (on for Tom Dyer), Tom Hammond (on for Daniel Barley), John Aaron Henry
Scores T: Daniel Barley (2), Tom Stileman (1), Hugo Lu (1) C: William Wilson (1)