Oxford University’s Rugby Blues beat Cardiff RFC 27-5 in what was a comfortable win to mark the first fixture of the revamped annual Major Stanley’s match.
After a convincing 55-14 win against Trinity College Dublin, the Blues opted to rotate the team, giving some fringe players an opportunity to prove themselves with just one fixture to go before the all-important Varsity match.
Playing in white kit, an allusion to the historical strip of Major Stanley’s XV, the Oxford side started the game well, forcing the first ten minutes of the match to be largely fought inside the Cardiff half.
The early dominance of the Blues continued to show. Despite Cardiff seeing more possession than in the first quarter of the half, the Welsh outfit struggled to convert their time with the ball into distance gained.
The game burst into life just after the 20-minute mark when a penetrating 50-yard run by Henry Martin forced Cardiff deep into their own half. With Cardiff’s back up against the wall, a lapse in judgment led to an Oxford penalty when Cardiff’s no 11 was sinbinned for a high tackle on Oxford’s fly-half Louis Jackson. The resultant penalty kick was duly put into touch and Oxford turned the line-out into an effective rolling maul from which Alasdair King scored the first try of the match.
Oxford continued to dictate the game and a poor kick from Cardiff found its way into the hands of Martin. The ball found its way to Jackson, whose incisive runs caused Cardiff serious problems throughout the game, who found a gap in the Cardiff defence before offloading to Conor Kearns for Oxford’s second try. The Blues thus went into the dressing room 10-0 up at half-time, after Jackson’s boot failed to live up to his otherwise high-quality performance.
The second half saw an emphatic start. The crowd had barely returned to their seats when a scrum in midfield led to Jackson turning on the afterburners and outpacing the Cardiff defence to score Oxford’s third try in a manner reminiscent of Johnny Sexton.
Not to go down without a fight, Cardiff fought back in the 69th minute after a sustained attack resulted in a momentary lapse of concentration for the Blues’ defence, allowing the Welsh no 11 to burst through and put some points on the scoreboard for the away side. Another conversion missed saw the score at 15-5 in Oxford’s favour.
Oxford were determined to put the game to bed, and they converted their supremacy into a fourth try inside the game’s last 5 minutes after multiple scrums resulted in Dylan McGagh finding his way over the try-line. Kearns stood up to take the subsequent conversion and duly secured Oxford’s first conversion of the match, setting the score line at 20-5.
In the dying breaths of the game the Blues scored their fifth try of the match after Tom Stileman found his way into the corner, securing a deserved victory with a convincing 27-5 final score in a match that showed the depth of the Blues’ squad ahead of their clash against Cambridge on the 6th December.