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RUGBY UNION: Oxford roar back for Varsity Match glory
Oxford Univ 26, Cambridge 19
Oxford University won their third successive Varsity Match thanks to a stirring comeback at Twickenham.
The Dark Blues trailed 19-6 early in the second half, but rallied superbly in the final half-hour, with Sam Egerton emerging as their star performer.
Egerton, who moved from full back to his more customary position of scrum half when Charlie Marr was introduced at fly half, produced an electric display to be named man-of-the-match.
Twenty unanswered points later, Oxford were celebrating an epic victory and John Carter became the first Dark Blues captain to claim successive wins since 1881.
It was also Oxford’s first hat-trick since 2001 and by far their best performance of the season.
The match saw a return to qualified assistant referees after last year’s unsuccessful experiment of reverting to former captains to run the line, but it was whistle-blower Tim Wigglesworth who dominated early on.
Oxford were penalised at their first two set-pieces, the latter being punished with a three-pointer from Cambridge full back Rob Stephen.
It was 6-0 on seven minutes as Stephen struck again from nearer the touchline, while Oxford centre Cassian Bramham-Law missed his first penalty attempt.
Stephen made it three kicks from three on 17 minutes.
Bramham-Law got Oxford on the board with his first penalty, but they lost skipper Carter to a knee injury.
Oxford attacked well from a lineout to create a simple penalty opportunity, which Bramham-Law took for 9-6.
Cambridge had a sniff when centre Danny Holmes intercepted back-rower Alex Waddingham’s pass, but he could not take full advantage.
The Light Blues led 16-6 at the break, however, after Will Smith combined well with fellow wing Andy Murdoch, who finished powerfully on the right, Stephen converting.
Stephen slotted his fourth penalty soon after the interval.
But Oxford’s best move of the match so far created space for a dynamic try from Egerton, who proved too slippery for the Cambridge defence on 51 minutes.
The introduction of Marr at fly half gave Oxford added creativity and it was his long pass that enabled stand-in captain James Harris to go over on the left for 19-16.
Oxford scored again on 68 minutes when Egerton snaked through midfield and laid the perfect pass for Marr to race over and convert.
Cambridge threatened with a driving maul and hooker Paul Mallaband could not take a potential scoring pass on the right, but Oxford’s defence was tenacious.
Bramham-Law did well to block a Cambridge grubber and run clear, but should have played in replacement Henry Hughes.
Marr wrapped it up with a 78th-minute penalty.
Oxford University: Egerton, Lamont, Bramham-Law, Turner, Vallance, Hudson (Hughes 67), Commins (Marr 59), Anderson, Gardner, Baker, Law (Rickner 76), Rowlands, Waddingham, Harris, Carter (capt) (Jones 22). Reps not used: Wisson, Direen, Cho, H Macdonald.
Cambridge University: Stephen (Cook 64), Murdoch, Holmes, Bain, Smith, Abraham, Tullie (Wolfe 57), Briggs, Mallaband, Brown (Marshall 64), Brakeley, Annett, Malaney (capt), Kelly, Steele (Mather 41). Reps not used: Cowan, Sanders, Cherezov, Hegarty.
Referee: T Wigglesworth (Hull).