Richards edges thrilling battle for Light Blues

Oxford 27 Cambridge 31

Cambridge produced a scintillating second-half performance to win the 128th Nomura Varsity Match here yesterday.

The Light Blues scored four tries in 18 minutes, leaving Oxford reeling and with no chance of repeating their stylish 33-29 victory of last term.

The lead changed hands five times between the 47th and 62nd minutes but a try count of 5-3 confirmed Cambridge's dominance after a memorable second period that produced 46 points.

Cambridge, captained by Australia's international lock Dan Vickerman, claimed tries from the full-back Jimmy Richards, wing James Greenwood, fly-half Ross Broadfoot, lock Will Jones and the substitute Jamie Hood.

Broadfoot kicked three conversions, while Oxford posted touchdowns by the scrum-half Nick Haydon, centre Alex Cheeseman and a penalty try, with the fly-half Ross Swanson kicking 12 points.

The second half proved in stark contrast to what preceded it for a 30,082 crowd. Broadfoot missed the only clear-cut scoring opportunity of an opening quarter laced with errors when he sent a 35-yard penalty wide.

The former Leicester fly-half soon found himself on prolonged defensive duty as Oxford probed for an opening. Dark Blues wings Tim Catling and Will Browne, scorers of more than 20 tries between them this season, both roamed freely, but Oxford finally struck through their forwards.

Haydon was denied a try by the television match official Andrew Small, yet Oxford maintained the pressure as props Richard Lutton and Oliver Tomaszczyk dominated in the scrum.

The Cambridge pack could not cope and, when their scrum disintegrated, the referee Dean Richards had little option but to award Oxford a 33rd-minute penalty try that Swanson duly converted.

Cambridge, though, were stung into a quickfire response, and the impressive Richards created an equalising try just before half-time. Richards took on the Oxford defence from deep and his elusive running created an opportunity that Greenwood gratefully accepted.

The match then burst into life during a breathtaking 20-minute spell when the sides shared five tries, four from the Light Blues. It was the outstanding Richards's try in the 66th minute and then substitute scrum-half Jamie Hood's break and race for the line that sealed victory for the LIght Blues. Cambridge deservedly took the spoils, avenging last season's defeat to claim a fourth Varsity triumph in the last five meetings.

Oxford University Tries Davies, Haydon, Cheesman; Conversions Swanson 3; Penalties Swanson 2.

Cambridge University Tries Greenwood, Jones, Broadfoot, Richards, Hood; Conversions Broadfoot 3.

Oxford University Mahony; Catling, Cheesman, Allfrey, Browne; Swanson, Haydon; Lutton, Rosen, Tomaszczyk, Kench, Van Zyl, Carter, McKeen, Davies. Substitutes: Rogers, Johnson, Outen, Tosa, Klopper, James, Morris, G. Oliver.

Cambridge University Richards; Riley, Shepherd, Burdon, Greenwood; Broadfoot, Rowe; Madiment, Wheeler, White, Vickerman, Jones, Harris, Crossley, Conlon. Substitutes: Gilbert, Daniel, Anuvatnujotiku, Henderson, Hood, Reid, Balfour, Cheetham.


Varsity matches won by Cambridge, since 1972. Oxford have won 53, with 14 drawn matches.