The touring party arrived in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon, following an intensive week of training, sightseeing and socialising at the three prestigious Ivy League Universities of Harvard, Yale and Princeton whose hospitality towards OURFC showed no bounds. Use of the excellent ‘athletic’ facilities at all three campuses, meant the squad were as well prepared as they could be at this early stage of the season to take on a strong Collegiate All American XV on Saturday afternoon.
Match day arrived to clear blue skies and temperatures in the high twenties, which meant challenging conditions for both sets of players at the magnificent Talen Energy Stadium, and hydration was going to be key to allowing an 80 minute performance. Pre-game a partisan crowd belted out the Stars and Stripes and continued to provide vocal support for the home team throughout the game, however the Oxford team seemed to take energy from this too.
The game started at a frenetic pace with the home team pressing the Oxford line with periods of intense attack, created by solid ball retention, however the Blues defence held firm and indeed after 15 minutes turned the tables on the Americans. From a line-out in the Americas half, winger Tom Stileman made a break down the blind side, brushing aside his opposite number, before finding support on his inside from scrum-half Sam Edgerley who scooted away to score near the posts, Captain Conor Kearns adding the conversion. The Americas side continued to play with accuracy and skill and were rewarded on 25 minutes, when Oxford conceded a penalty at the break down and their scrum-half converted the opportunity into points. The Americas then took the lead in unlikely circumstances when Edgerley made a break form a scrum down the blind side and appeared to have created a simple run in for winger Dan Moor, only to see his pass intercepted by the Americas winger who raced fully 70 minutes to score in the corner, despite the best efforts of centre Alex Hogg to force him into touch, the conversion was missed but the home side now lead by a single point. However on the stroke of half-time, Oxford regained the lead, when Kearns did a lovely show and go to glide through the defensive line, before setting up a ruck and with the ball recycled quickly and spun out to the right, flanker Andy Saull was strong enough to force his way over in the corner for an unconverted try, to make the score at the interval 12 – 11 in Oxford’s favour.
The Blues came out after the break in determined fashion and were rewarded after just 5 minutes with a push-over try from No 8 Will Wilson, the Oxford scrum was a powerful weapon all afternoon and this was just rewards for the tight five. Unfortunately Kearns was off target with the difficult conversion, so the lead was still only six points. This score acted as a spur to the Americas team who piled into the Oxford forwards trying to wrestle some physical dominance over the Oxford pack and eventually they got their reward when a passage of play with repeated off-loads saw their second row forward score near the posts and with the fly-half adding the extras, they were now ahead by one point with less than 10 minutes remaining. However, the visitors did not panic and with a couple of sets of fresh legs being brought on in the forwards, proceeded to force their way up field with a series of penalties and then a line break by Dan Moor who looked as though he had put Edgerley in for his second try, only for the scrambling defence to drag him down. However, the Americas conceded a penalty at the subsequent break-down and despite the crowd doing their best to put him off, Kearns coolly slotted the penalty which proved to be the match winning kick which saw Oxford gain the narrowest of wins by 20 points to 18.
The squad will rest-up on Sunday before travelling to West Point for more training and team bonding exercises, before heading to New York and their final fixture against Old Blue on Friday evening.
Team Lewis Anderson, Ed Elvin, Kieran Ball, Lisiate Fifita, Hugo McPherson, Andy Saull, William Thornton, William Wilson, Sam Edgerley, Conor Kearns, Dan Moor, Alex Hogg, Daniel Barley, Tom Stileman, Tom Hammond
Subs John Aaron Henry (on for Ed Elvin), Charlie Pozniak (on for Hugo McPherson), James Beaufils (on for William Thornton), Tom Kershaw (on for Alex Hogg), Noah Miller, Michael Gorry, Thom Foster
ScoresT: William Wilson (1), Andy Saull (1), Sam Edgerley (1) C: Conor Kearns (1) P: Conor Kearns (1)