Rugby Union: Patton's lost campaign

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The Independent Online
BOTH coaches were agreed on one thing. The new laws have outdated the game, at least in terms of entertainment. No continuity, they said. No pattern. Patton, the Oxford captain, raised his eyes to the heavens at the mention of the referee.

Michael Patton's University match record is played two, lost two, and he will not get a chance of making it third time unlucky. Patton sat in a room beneath a stand and for some reason he was wearing the No 10 jersey that belonged to the Cambridge stand-off, Kevin Price. It was splattered with blood. Light Blue blood, Patton pointed out. 'We had a side capable of winning,' he said, 'but errors appeared that haven't appeared all season. You've got to be proud in defeat.'

Proud, bowed and bloodied. It was not a game for the connoisseur, but then the great revival of the University match has coincided with the Great Lost Tuesday. The 2pm kick-off clearly caught most spectators in mid-lunch in muddy car parks. Beyond the dead-ball lines, Twickenham, with hampers and champers, looked like Henley and Wimbledon, except there was no need for the ice.

When the game started the ground was no more than three-quarters full. By half-time the stadium again emptied as thousands headed for points of relief, blocking those coming in from the car boot booze-up of the year.

Audley Lumsden, one of Oxford's celebrated threequarters, stood on the right wing with his hands behind his back. The next minute he received a pass, admittedly rare, and dropped it. Towards the end Lumsden ran over to the referee and asked him, when Oxford were 19-11 down, how much time was left. There was time enough for Lumsden, who has hardly played in the last few years because of a broken neck and broken ankle, to damage a hamstring and off he limped.

Oxford frequently found Cambridge territory in the first half but could not find the line. 'The amount of pressure they imposed and they couldn't get any points,' Eric Peters, the Cambridge captain, said. 'I knew at the end we would be fitter if not stronger. I was confident in our scrummaging.'

Lynn Evans, the Oxford coach, said the new laws made people play for line-outs instead of scrums. 'It is a difficult enough game to play as it is and now it is no easier,' he said.

This partly explains, but does not excuse, the easy options both sides took. Kick it high, or kick it long or, more frequently as it happened, kick it inaccurately. The criticism does not apply to Lloyd Davies, the Cambridge full-back, who scored 11 points in the 111th University match.

Peters, who will rejoin Saracens, was a third of a terrific Cambridge back row (they recognised a weakness in that Oxford had two blindside flankers) and their tackling became infectious. 'We knew we had the more workmanlike side,' Peters said. 'We have a tremendous spirit and when the chips are down we'd come out fighting.' Style? 'A win's a win,' Peters said. And next year it will be Pattonless.

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