For the second week in a row the Men’s Blues welcomed a top class student side to Iffley Road and for the second week running they ended up taking the spoils, but only just, this time against a strong and determined Trinity College Dublin team. Fresh from a resounding victory over the ‘Other Place’ at College Park last Saturday afternoon, the TCD side arrived in Oxford looking to secure an Oxbridge Double, but with former TCD man at the helm, the Oxford team were well prepared for the challenge that lay ahead. Once again the weather was kind, with the evening being dry and mild and conducive to an open attacking game and both team duly obliged to put on a highly entertaining spectacle for the large, enthusiastic crowd.
It was the TCD boys who came out to the blocks the fastest and were soon rewarded for their early efforts with a try from flanker Dave St Leger after just five minutes, with fly-half Tommy Whittle converting from out wide. This only served to ‘poke’ the Blues in to a reply and just four minutes later. From a scrum free-kick, No 8 Will Wilson took a quick tap and drove hard into the heart of the Irish defence, before the ball was quickly recycled and moved swiftly through the hands to left wing Tom Stileman who finished with aplomb in the corner, Conor Kearns was of target with the difficult touchline conversion. TCD had the edge in possession for the next 20 minutes but resolute defence from the Blues kept the scoreboard from moving, until with half-time approaching Captain Kearns slotted a penalty form 30 metres out to nudge Oxford into a one point lead, 8 points to 7 which was the interval score line.
The start of the second mirrored the first, with TCD claiming an early try through impressive centre and Captain Michael Courtney, when he forced his way over in the right hand corner from close range, this time Whittle could not add the conversion. Once again through, the Blues hit back almost immediately when Stileman grabbed his second try, when coming off his wing looking for work, he barrelled his way over using his power to knock defenders out of his way! Kearns was again unable to add the extras. The Blues now had the taste for victory and concerted pressure lead to a third try and perhaps the best of the match. The Blues gained possession on half way, replacement prop Lewis Anderson made a break followed by a sublime off-load, to release a supporting player, a rapidly recycled ruck saw the ball moved to the right where back-row forward Rob Talotti, who enjoyed another impressive outing, dived over in the corner to the delight of his teammates. Kearns again could not find the posts with his conversion attempt. The local crowd were now in full voice and chants of ‘Oxford, Oxford’ rang out from the west stand and with four minutes left on the scoreboard clock, the Blues were awarded a penalty for offside and Kearns stepped up to slot the ball between the sticks and extend their lead to four points. From the resulting kick-off, TCD came straight back at the Blues and earned a penalty of their own which they quickly kicked to the corner to set up a catch and drive line-out opportunity. With just a try needed to come away with the win, TCD drove hard and repeatedly for the Oxford line, but stern and determined defence from the Blues repelled wave after wave of Irish attack, until eventually a handing error lead to an Oxford man kicking the ball dead to the delight of the home team and supporters alike!
The Blues now have a well-earned couple of days off, before they begin preparations for another stern test – the visit of high-flying Bristol to Iffley Road on Friday 27th October, kick-off 7.15pm.
Team Kieran Ball, Ed Elvin, Noah Miller, Ollie Adams, Lisiate Fifita, Roberto Talotti, William Thornton, William Wilson, Tom Kershaw, Conor Kearns, Ed David, Sam Moorby, Daniel Barley, Tom Stileman, Sam Edgerley
Subs John Aaron Henry (on for Ed Elvin), Hugo McPherson (on for Ollie Adams), Charlie Pozniak (on for Lisiate Fifita), Alex Hogg (on for Sam Moorby), Michael Gorry, Ben Parker, Dylan McGagh, Dan Moor, Peter Moore
Scores T: Tom Stileman (2), Roberto Talotti (1) P: Conor Kearns (2)