The Men’s Blues welcomed Hartpury College to Iffley Road on Wednesday night for their first home game of the 2017 Varsity Campaign and secured a narrow, hard earned 20 points to 17 victory over the 2017 BUCS Double Champions. This was the first encounter between the two educational establishments at 1st XV level, the Greyhounds having played Hartpury back in the mid 2000’s in the BUSA competition, so both teams were keen to claim the scalp of their opponents.
The opening exchanges were dominated by the visitors who came out of the blocks fired up and determined to make an impression and they were rewarded after just 3 minutes, when a well-constructed catch and drive line-out resulted in a try in the corner, fly-half Sam Leeming was off target with the difficult conversion. The Blues then responded by working their way up field to earn a penalty in the Hartpury 22 which Captain Conor Kearns coolly slotted between the uprights to narrow the gap to just 2 points. From the resulting kick-off Hartpury earned a penalty, kicked to the corner and repeated their earlier effort with another catch and drive line-out try, once again Leeming could not add the extras so the score was now 10 – 3 in favour of the visitors. With half-time on the horizon, the Oxford forwards started to get a foot hold and on being awarded a penalty in the Hartpury 22, this time Kearns spurned the opportunity to take points and kicked to the corner to set up a line-out just 5 metres out. The line-out was duly won and following a series of close range drives, flanker Will Thornton celebrated his birthday with a try from all of 50 centimetres! Kearns added the conversion to tie the scores at 10 points apiece going into the interval.
The Blues came out for the second period in determined fashion and were well placed to break through the Hartpury defence when a loose pass in midfield was seized upon by the visitors centre Victor Pisano who raced 50 metres unopposed to score under the posts, full-back Maliq Holden adding the straight forward conversion to put the men in red 7 points ahead 5 minutes into the second period. With both sides making changes, the second half became a little disjointed but with both teams still intent on moving the ball to try and make inroads into each other’s solid defensive lines. With the clock ticking past the 70 minute mark, Oxford were awarded a kickable penalty and Kearns elected to go for the points and duly delivered to put the Blues just 4 points behind, his decision being fully justified with the decisive moment of the match coming just 4 minutes from full-time. With the Blues scrum coming into its own late in the game, the award of a 5 metre scrum had the tight five relishing the opportunity to drive their opponents back over their own line, which they subsequently managed to do with back-row forward Rob Talotti – on debut – being the recipient of their efforts to notch the try, Kearns adding the extras to give Oxford a 3 point lead with full-time rapidly approaching. The kick-off was cleaned up by the Blues forwards who then went through a series of ‘pick and gos’ before scrum-half Sam Edgerley kicked the ball in to the stand to a rapturous roar from the partisan crowd who celebrated the win!
The Men’s Blues next outing is once again at Iffley Road as they host Conor Kearns Alma Mater – Trinity College, Dublin – on Tuesday 17th October, this time with a 7.00pm kick-off, we look forward to welcoming you back then.
Team Kieran Ball, Ed Elvin, Noah Miller, Lisiate Fifita, Ollie Adams, Charlie Pozniak, William Thornton, William Wilson, Tom Kershaw, Conor Kearns, Dan Moor, Sam Moorby, Daniel Barley, Tom Stileman, Sam Edgerley
Subs Lewis Anderson (on for Ed Elvin), Hugo McPherson (on for Ollie Adams), James Beaufils (on for Lisiate Fifita), Roberto Talotti (on for Charlie Pozniak), Peter Moore (on for Tom Kershaw), Alex Hogg (on for Daniel Barley), Ben Parker, Andy Saull
Scores T: Roberto Talotti (1), William Thornton (1) C: Conor Kearns (2) P: Conor Kearns (2)