Pegged back at the last

Oxford 11

Cambridge 11
In the 72nd minute, Cambridge winger and fresher, Charlie Desmond, lived up to his billing as the “speedster” and “bolter” of the side with the try that retained the MMC Trophy in the 14th draw in Varsity Match history. However, though Cambridge settled early on, Oxford were utterly dominant for the majority of the second half
and will rue their failure to put the game beyond the Light Blues when they had the chance. As Director of Rugby Steve Hill said afterwards, “One team came to play today, but fair play to the other, they certainly defended
well.”After a nervy first minute in which Oxford nearly scored, Cambridge found their rhythm and, holding a solid line upfield, began to punish Oxford’s forwards who were too slow to the breakdown. Two rucks, in the 6th and 18th minutes, both led to penalties which Daffyd Lewis duly converted. Perhaps even more worryingly for Oxford, Graham Barr, a scrum half by trade, was forced to fill in for the unfortunate John Fennell at fly-half after the latter tore a hip flexor muscle. However, by the end of the half, Oxford had gained an 8–6 lead, and appeared to be shading the game overall. Until the 34th minute, Cambridge’s defence held firm and infuriated Oxford in a physical, attritional battle. Then,
however, the pressure finally told, as John Bradshaw made a minibreak on the left and laid inside to
captain John Allen. Allen passed back to Ryan O’Mahoney who in turn fed prop Henry Nwume a few
yards from the left touchline.Nwume still had plenty of work to o but shrugged off a challenge and burst, bloody-minded, for the line, touching down through one final desperate Cambridge body. The Dark Blues’ lead arrived through an injury-time penalty
from O’Mahoney, after left-winger Adam Slade had superbly outpaced 3 defenders and broken into a desperate Cambridge’s twentytwo. However, at half-time Cambridge had a right to feel aggrieved, as moments earlier the
touch judge had failed to spot the fact that a Lewis drop-goal attempt had clearly passed between the posts. For the first 30 minutes of the second half, Oxford were completely dominant in terms of territory and possession. “The fact that they didn’t get out of their half was testament to our game plan,” said Allen. However, Cambridge refused to give an inch, particularly in the tackle. The Dark Blue forwards kept hold of the ball, with
Canadian international Kevin Tkachuk notably outstanding, while the backs were patient; at times they were enterprising, with Barr working hard to fill Fennell’s boots. Allen and Bradshaw both came agonisingly close to the line before a magnificent break by tough-tackling Man of the Match Adam Magro through the centre
nearly laid in Matt Street for a try.Though there was a suspicion of a forward pass, Cambridge gave away a penalty in the ensuing desperate
scramble under the posts, and O’Mahoney extended Oxford’s lead from the kick.  After Allen, nearing the line,
knocked on in the 67th minute, Cambridge gained some respite, and after a well-run loose ball was fed to Desmond, he dodged a tackle with brutal speed to finish in the corner. In the last minutes Oxford were generally on the back foot, but a wayward drop-goal attempt was the closest the Light Blues came to winning outright.Archive: 0th Week HT 2004