Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Cambridge put African connection to good use
"It is a statistical curiosity that all the Cambridge tryscorers were born on the African continent — out of Africa, they say, always something new."
By David Hands, Rugby CorrespondentOxford University 16 Cambridge University 31
THE Varsity match has needed an injection of spice for some time and an overcast afternoon at Twickenham yesterday provided it. Cambridge, shrugging off the loss of their full back in the opening minutes and the departure of two forwards to the sin-bin, grew in stature to dominate the second half and win by the widest margin in this fixture since 1996.
It was a more exciting contest than many in recent years, largely because of the sensible tactical mixture offered by the winners, although Oxford supporters will have been dismayed by the collapse of their team after a promising first quarter. Apart from a couple of early close-range scrums, the Dark Blues seldom threatened Cambridge’s line, until they were finally awarded a penalty try as the game entered injury time.
Three penalty goals from James Whittingham gave them the lead at the interval, with Rudi Bosch not only the first of three yellow cards in the match but the first recipient of a card in the history of the fixture. But Cambridge seemed as effective with 14 men (two of their five tries came in reduced circumstances) as with the full complement and Bosch cemented his place in history in more positive style with two of those tries.
The loose-head prop from Bothaville, 31 last month and linked with a move to Saracens thanks to his friendship with their Springboks prop, Cobus Visagie, was part of a scrum that ground down Oxford. Twist and turn as they would, the Oxford tight five could not stay the pace in the third quarter; they lost Sean Brophy to the sin-bin during a period of close-range scrums when Cambridge, too, might have been given a penalty try and finally buckled when Andy Clements crossed. Then, from the restart, David Akinluyi added Cambridge’s fourth try. So Cambridge, with their 58th win in the 124th Varsity match, reclaimed the MMC Trophy in the 30th and last year of the sponsorship agreement.
They looked on shaky ground when Ian McInroy was carried off after a clash of heads with Doug Abbott and his replacement, Steffan Thomas, also left on a stretcher after a mistimed tackle on Whittingham. But Thomas returned and Jonny Ufton, calling on all his experience of professional rugby with London Wasps, kept Cambridge heads up.
On what was virtually their first visit to the Oxford 22 they scored, opting to push a kickable penalty into the corner and then driving a lineout maul some 15 metres before Bosch emerged with the ball and the game’s first try.
Akinluyi and Joe Ansbro offered differing running skills behind the scrum, but it was the experience and strength of their forwards that offered the way back into the match. The early threat offered by James Jones, the Oxford No 8, was nullified and though Bosch’s yellow card, for lineout obstruction, gave Whittingham his third successful kick, his colleagues resumed after the interval with a series of driving plays which finally earned a try for Nic Alberts.
When Bosch returned, Cambridge settled to their work much as England’s scrum did against Australia last month, with the same result as Brophy departed. In his absence Clements scored after 18 phases of play and when, from Ufton’s clearance after the restart, Anthony Knox elected to chip ahead, Akinluyi charged the ball down, collected the bounce and ran 35 metres to score.
Oxford finally managed to exert a degree of pressure and Alberts collected a yellow card for collapsing a maul. Another drive from a lineout brought Oxford their penalty try but Bosch forced his way over after Tom Tombleson was caught behind his own posts and conceded a five-metre scrum.
It is a statistical curiosity that all the Cambridge tryscorers were born on the African continent — out of Africa, they say, always something new.
HOW THEY LINED UP AT TWICKENHAM
SCORERS: Oxford University: Try: Penalty try (80+2). Conversion: Whittingham. Penalty goals: Whittingham 3 (16, 21, 40+9). Cambridge University: Tries: Bosch 2 (27min, 80+4), Alberts (44), Clements (60), Akinluyi (61). Conversions: Ufton 3. SCORING SEQUENCE (Oxford University first): 3-0, 6-0, 6-5, 9-5 (half-time), 9-10, 9-17, 9-24, 16-24, 16-31