The Oxford rugby union sevens team narrowly missed out on winning the Plate competition at a prestigious international sevens tournament in 4th Week.
The club headed off to Paris on Tuesday 19th May for the Centrale Sevens tournament for the eleventh consecutive year, under the guidance of head coach James Wade and captain George Messum.
The first year the tournament took place in 2005, OURFC was victorious with a squad that included current Blues backs coach James Gaunt. The closest it has come to winning the main trophy since then was in 2012, when a squad boasting current England sevens captain Tom Mitchell lost in the final to the very impressive Stellenbosh University.
The tournament has grown in strength year on year, with national student teams from France, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine, China and other countries being regular visitors to Centrale. This year’s tournament saw Oxford in a group with the Belhair Rockets from South Africa, Grenoble University and the Belgium Students national team with the pool matches being played on Wednesday 20th May and the knock-outs on the following day.
Over 20 student teams took part from four different continents. Oxford is able to boast a considerable array of international sevens talent itself however. After the close of the tournament, it was announced Keble Masters student and Blue scrum-half Sam Egerton will be joining England sevens on a 16 month contract, where he will join fellow Oxford Blue and current captain Tom Mitchell.
This year’s sevens squad was made up of eight OURFC members and four invited players. There were three Blues in the side, St Anne’s student George Messum and George Cullen and Ian Williams of Kellogg.
Oxford had a mixed set of pool results on day one, starting with a narrow 19 points to 12 loss to the Cape Town club side The Belhair Rockets. OURFC then went on to beat French University side Grenoble 33 points to 26, before finishing the day with a 17 all draw against the Belgian national seven. Such a performance ensured Oxford qualified for the quarter finals where they played against the ‘France Universities’ line-up.
Unfortunately, the French would prove to be Oxford’s downfall. Here on the morning of day two, at the knock-out stage, Oxford went down to a high quality ‘France Universities’ side.
This meant OURFC faced the Belgian National team again in the Plate semi-final. This time Oxford held on to win another very tight encounter 21 points to 17, to set up a Final against La Rochelle University. It was a keenly contested affair but a late yellow card for Oxford proved their downfall as the French side secured a 26 points to 15 victory.
Overall, French teams dominated the tournament, with the University of Paris defeating the composite side ‘JDC7’ in the final. Grenoble and La Rochelle also performed well. Oxford returned home unlucky to miss out on silverware but assured they can hold their own on the international stage.