Pembroke Women’s Rugby team won a penalty shoot-out in the Cuppers semi-final against Keble to take a place in Saturday’s final against a mixed Brasenose and Wadham team.
The late kick-off started brightly, with Pembroke coming out strong and producing some powerful carries and big hits in the opening phases. Keble managed to weather the storm and soon came back in kind, with the breakdown fiercely contested by both sides throughout. There was nothing between the two teams in the first half, with probing runs being met with staunch defence all over the pitch.
The pace of the game increased in the second half, with attempts to spread the ball wide met with some quick-witted cover defence from both teams. One of the best chances came from a chip and chase from Keble’s fly-half, who collected her kick and drew the fullback before passing to winger Ellie Taylor for what looked like a certain try.
It took some last-ditch heroics from Pembroke captain Alice Mingay, whose desperate tackle right at the try line saw the navy-blue winger bundled into touch, to keep the scores level. The Pembroke forwards then turned up the heat, best exemplified by a storming run from prop Immie Hobby down the middle of the pitch, only to be met by an exceptional tackle at the last line of defence from Keble full-back Charlotte Rougier.
Keble received the kick-off again and worked it to their favour as they forced Pembroke to defend their try line through repeated phases. Despite a battering from Keble’s forwards, the pink defence continued to hold strong until the breakthrough came late in the first half of extra time. Shekinah Opara found an exquisite line for Keble and crashed through the Pembroke wall for the first try of the match.
Not to be deterred, the women in pink came out swinging for the last five minutes of extra time. Some incisive running from Pembroke backs Bethan McGregor and Jess Forsyth pushed play all the way back to Keble’s try line. With less than a minute to go, it was again a forward who found the glory, with a strong team build up for Pembroke finished off by prop Hobby for the equalising try.
The game went to penalty kicks, with five kickers from each teams stepping up in the most nerve-wracking of circumstances. The end result ultimately didn’t reflect the closeness of the game, with Pembroke taking the honours 4-1.
Pembroke’s Helen Cossar and Sydney Gagliano were both exceptional, and put in their best performances in the pink jersey to date, while Claire Castle, Nina Jenkins and Maddie Hindson were the standouts in navy-blue.
In the men’s tournament, St Edmund Hall beat Jesus to set up a final with St Peter’s, who came out on top against Hertford.