Oxford’s Women’s Blues secured their Bucs Premier South status for next season on Wednesday night, scraping past a strong Bristol side 22-14.
After winning 10-7 against the same opposition in October, the Dark Blues kicked off under the floodlights at Iffley Stadium in front of a sizeable home crowd quietly confident of a victory.
The match was hotly contested from the start, since the sides were fairly well matched, but Oxford prevailed to secure a third win in five Bucs games this season.
After starting on the front foot, some nimble footwork allowed Oxford full-back Sophie Trott to burst through Bristol’s defensive line and run in the first try of the match under the posts.
But Bristol responded with intent, scoring a converted try to move into the lead. An excellent run down the touchline by Oxford’s Helen Potts gave the home side their second try, but Bristol responded again shortly after to open up a 14-10 lead at halftime.
After a rousing team talk from the coaches, the Oxford side brought a new intensity to the second half, putting in some strong tackles and driving the visiting scrum backwards from the outset.
Laura Simpson consistently broke through Bristol’s defensive line, while prop Hester Odgers put in some crunching tackles as the forwards held firm.
The Blues scored twice more, with one try from winger Alice Mingay shooting around the outside of the Bristol defence and another from the excellent Johanna Dombrowski, who plowed straight through several Bristol players to reach the tryline.
The Oxford team managed to defend their lead for the remainder of the match, despite Bristol spending the final few minutes in the Oxford 22, before a sneaky turnover allowed Trott to kick the ball out of play and secure the points.
The win was an important one for Oxford, who secured their place in the Bucs Premier South for next season. As things currently stand, the Blues sit fourth in the league, putting them in contention for the Bucs Cup play-off later in the season.
It also continues the Dark Blues’ preparations ahead of December’s Varsity Match, where they will look to secure a second consecutive win at Twickenham.
Their opponents, Cambridge, have racked up an impressive 366 points in their past five games, conceding only seven, but Oxford will take confidence from last year’s gritty display and their own strong form.