Out-thought and out-fought

Oxford 20Les Blues, on Monday by following a great performance from last week with a disappointing effort this week. against Wasps, the Blues were ahead after 30 minutes but on Monday a series of defensive lapses saw Harlequins out of sight by half-time before the match descended into a near-brawl by the end. Robin Bridge hanging off his back, powered over the line. Mike Brown’s mazy run deceived every player that came close and after he converted his own try, which made the score 12-0 after only eight minutes, the Blues looked like they might be completely routed. Jon Fennell kicked a decent penalty but Greenwood was soon at it again. england’s current record try scorer performed a gloriously cheeky pass behind his back after another ‘Quins break and only some last-minute defence prevented another try.Dalgleish’s indiscretion. ‘Quins eased off and the Blues had a great period of attacking play. There was still time for two more fights, with Harris and Jones once again at the centre of the action. The game ran into injury time and with the last action of the match, Anthony Knox scored an inspired solo effort. running down the line, Knox played an inventive grubber kick which he scooped up and deposited over the line. Whittingham converted the try to save the Blues’ dignity with a full-time score of 20-43.  NEC  Harlequins 43Oxford’s rugby team mimicked another blue clad rugby team, The inclusion of four internationals in the ‘Quins team was always going to cause the Blues’ defence trouble, but few would have predicted the ease with which they were sliced open by the speed of the visitors. While Harlequins’ backs were formidable, the ability of the Oxford line to react looked woeful and oportunities were gifted at regular intervals. an over-reliance on kicking also put Tom Tombleson and Jonan Boto, the Blues’ wingers, out of the game and gave Harlequins extremely long periods of possession.There were, however, some positives to take from the Blues’ performance. doug abbott was on fine form in the pack and Boto scored another of his trademark tries. However, a lack of discipline was clearly evident, with four fights occurring through the match, one consuming almost all the players and another lasting for at least two minutes. Lock adam Harris was particularly involved and James Jones was also sent to the sin bin. The referee, ed Turnill, struggled to keep control and every ruck looked like it had the potential to combust into a raging fire of aggression.The match started poorly for the home side when Greenwood picked a hole in the Blues’ defence and, despite The first altercation of the match occurred at the mid point of the first half when Harris tussled with Lorne Ward. Ward was the protagonist and was lucky to stay on the pitch but Harris seemed to be able to stir up trouble throughout the night with only a few words. The resulting line out was driven over the line with abbbot officially getting the ball down. Oxford seemed to have contained the opposition but a slow reaction by the Blues let Samoan international George Harder score unopposed. When attacking possession, the team looked promising, but Greenwood and the rest of the ‘Quins backs were causing persistent problems and their pressure paid off when James Inglis scored to leave Oxford trailing 8-26.The Blues came out looking to improve on their first half performance but Tom Guest capitalised on a ruck to score another five points after only two minutes. ‘Quins won a lineout and drove to the line but met a strong Blues pack. However, the visitors simply spun the ruck and Guest only had to fall over the line to score. Boto lead efforts to even up the score and another fantastic run resulted in his third try in two matches.Indiscipline struck again with 25 minutes to go and Oxford’s Jones and Harlequins’ Kiba richards, who had only been on the pitch for a minute, were sent to the sin bin after the touch judge’s intervention. ‘Quins seemed to be the more comfortable team playing with 14 and Tom Williams shot through the Blues to score, converting his own try and giving the visitors a 30 point lead.Oxford needed some points to avoid humiliation and James Whittingham tried to provide them. His fantastic run was spoilt when the resulting penalty and scoring opportunity was lost due to Captain andy It is heartening to hear that Cambridge only put six points past a weaker ‘Quins last week. However, there can be no room for complacency. Steve Hill, director of rugby, described the performance as "disappointing", and so he should. any team that plans on winning must first stop conceding, and the Blues certainly have work to do in this area. If they still can’t deal with pace by next week, the game against Tonga could be an embarrassment.ARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005