Oxfored clinch warriors draw

BLUES RUGBY Worcester Warriors 26 Oxford 26 The Blues bid to regain their Varsity title looked decidedly promising on Monday night, as they forced an away draw with the Worcester Warriors at Sixways. Worcester, currently lying top of the first division, fielded a relatively strong side which included nine senior players as well as members of their development squad, while a series of minor injuries as well as World Cup commitments meant several key players were missing for the visiting team. Oxford were very quickly behind, as a combination of good passing by the Warriors and bad defence by the Blues led to two quick tries. Worcester winger Birchall’s pace exploited the narrowness of the Oxford back line, and after the first of several missed penalties for Oxford, Worcester fullback Hylton made it 14-0 in fourteen minutes. Far from beaten however, the Blues kept the pressure on, and their patience was rewarded when captain John Allen finished off a well-executed backs move with a powerful try. Having stopped the rot, Oxford’s defence seemed less shaky, and Adam Slade made an excellent tackle in the fortieth minute to prevent a third Worcester try. Fly half Jon Fennel’s last minute penalty ensured a creditable half-time score of 14-8. The Blues started the second half in style, with a quick try after a superb forward drive by winger John Bradshaw. A successful conversion would have handed Oxford the lead, but the score remained 14-13 as pressure on the Warriors’ defence increased. Another penalty took Oxford in front, before an excellent wide move in the sixtieth minute led to John Allen’s second try of the match, converted comfortably by Fennel. With the score now 14-23 to the visitors, the home side stepped up a gear, and a textbook dummy by Worcester winger Garrard gave Neil Mason an easy try. The conversion put the Warriors within two points of the Blues, when poor tackling by the Oxford defence gave Worcester captain David Officer another five points. Now three points ahead, the Warriors conceded another penalty, and Fennel’s conversion levelled the scores at 26-26. After a chaotic last few minutes, Worcester kicked for touch to take the draw. Far from being complacent, OURFC Chairman Martin Jackson was already focussed on progress and potential in the lead-up to Varsity: “We are testing the team at quite a high level, especially since a lot of players are new to the Blues squad. Our next match against Leicester will be vital, as they are also shortly playing Cambridge, so we’ll know where we are and what we want to do. A few silly mistakes cost us the game today.” However, with two consecutive draws against First Division teams, and an unprecedented sponsorship deal with Aggregate Industries, the atmosphere is optimistic.ARCHIVE: 1st Week MT2003