The students were rather unlucky to get Western Samoa on the rebound from a hammering at the hands of Saracens on Saturday. With only one more match, against Munster on Saturday, before they take on Ireland the tourists adopted a tough approach to this match.
They still found Oxford a handful. The Oxford scrum learned valuable lessons and improved throughout and the line-outs were never a procession of possession for the tourists. Outside-half James Averis, three months into his return following 18 months out with cruciate ligament damage to a knee, put in a classy and mature performance. His kicking style, measured, easy and most important of all, accurate, betrayed some concentrated session work with the kicking guru, Dave Alred, and Rob Andrew during his rehabilitation.
Averis helped himself to 17 points, including a well-taken try in the first half, and the second of his three conversions nosed Oxford ahead for seven minutes near the start of the second half. But the bodily hardness and the very size of the tourists and their fearsome tackling told as they ran in eight tries, six of them after the interval as the Dark Blues began to feel the pace.
Oxford can take heart from the way they tackled. They have probably never had to make quite so many in a game, and will never have been hit quite so hard. One tackle by a Samoan on full-back Richie Maher folded him in two. Remarkably he recovered his wind and finished the game like his colleagues, in spirited fashion.
Both sides showed a willingness to run the ball, even from kickable penalties. Although a bit of niggle crept in at the end, the referee, Chris Reeks, quickly doused the sparks, showing Afa Leu'u a yellow card towards the end.
Oxford University: Tries Averis, Smart, penalty try; Conversions Averis 3; Penalties Averis 2. Western Samoa: Tries Patu 2, Fatialofa 2, So'oalo, Feaunati, Toala, Toleafoa; Conversions Tanoai 6; Penalties Tanoai 2.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY: R Maher (University); C Smart (Trinity), J Riondet (Mansfield), G Williams (Keble), R Browne (University); J Averis (St Cross), N Hogan (Merton); J Bothwell (Merton), N Hockley (Worcester), D Penney (Wolfson), T Eisenhauer (St Anne's), A Roberts (New College), J Britton (New College, C McCarthy (Templeton), K Spicer (St Anne's). Replacements: J Kindon (Queen's) for Britton, 24-35; J Finnegan (Jesus, 80) for Eisenhauer.
WESTERN SAMOA: V Patu; A So'oalo, G Leaupepe, M Fatialofa, F Toala; F Tanoai, V Vitale; B Reidy, T Leota, A Leu'u, M Birtwhistle (capt), L Tone, S Vaili, K Toleafoa, S Smith. Replacements: I Feaunati for Smith, 48; P Leavasu for Reidy, 61; P Fili for Patu, 61; T Fanolua for Leaupepe, 67.
Referee: C Reeks (Frome).