Wednesday 6th November saw the mighty Oxford University Rugby League Blues continue their battle in the top flight of the student game after a well-earned promotion last season. A light drizzle adorned the pitch and mud squelched underfoot as Oxford and Northampton ran out to meet each-other in battle.
The opening exchange saw Oxford establish their dominance with Jack Barber swooping in for a try in the first ten minutes and Joe Davies successfully adding a conversion. Northampton were, however, the next to score as mistakes entered into Oxford’s game, with two knock-ons occurring in the space of ten minutes and several repeat sets being gifted to the opposition. Responding to the rallying cries of captain J. Baker as well as the vocal sideline contingent, Oxford turned the next fifty five minutes of play strongly to their advantage. Hard running from Gareth Davies down the middle helped create space outside for Joe Davies to score a brace of tries before halftime, leaving the score at 14-4 to Oxford at the break. Yoni Dennis carried the ball like a mighty ox on several occasions, with one notable instance seeing him advance twenty-five metres, scattering Northampton players like bowling pins.
The second half saw a further four unanswered tries for Oxford bring the score to 324. Oxford’s defence was aggressive, with hard tackles made by the forwards. Prop Ted Stone forced a knock on and Yoni Denis continued to impress in defence, allowing the backs to capitalise on the positioning and possession the forwards managed to secure. Returning Blue Ross Williamson ran the ball hard and fast, earning substantial ground for Oxford, whilst pivot Jack Baker marshalled the backline like a Roman general.
Towards the middle of the half the game became completely dominated by Oxford, with the team gaining 75 metres in three tackles at one point as the difference in fitness began to tell. Northampton failed to track back to support team-mates when the ball was kicked and a large prop received a ball to the face from his hooker to shouts of “You would have caught that if it was a cake” from the sideline.
Oxford still have much to improve on, as mistakes crept back into their game in the last fifteen minutes with Ben Claxton letting a kick drop right through the breadbasket and horribly slicing one of his own out on the full into row Z. Northampton took advantage of this and scored two late tries. One of them was created by their dreadlocked second row who streaked down the sideline, hair trailing behind him like a majestic mane, leaving the final score at 32-12. In all it was a successful day for Oxford with much for the team to be proud of.
After the game, Blues captain Jack Baker, euphoric in victory, quipped, “I am happy. It was good” whilst Leonard Bentley remarked “My calves are looking deadly.” Next week sees Oxford take on Nottingham Trent away, a game which the Blues will be looking to win after a stalwart performance against Northampton.