Oxford 14Tonga 34Oxford came off worse in a match of brutal intensity against the touring Tonga national side. Though they remained competitive throughout the match, they conceded a disappointing six tries to lose by 14-34. 34-14 is a convincing defeat, but Oxford did not play badly. They were simply overpowered at the end by the sheer physicality of a Tonga side famous for its size, power and aggression even on the international scene. Almost to a man, the Blues were smaller than their opposite numbers; they lost over ten stone to the Tongans just in the front row! While their energy lasted, Oxford were impressive both in the pack and behind the scrum. The defensive gaps of the previous week were sealed, and Tom Tomblestone led the side in attack with two outstanding tries.The game started badly for the Blues with the poor conditions making handling difficult. Peter Jenkins made a mazy run toward his own tryline and Matt Sherman’s attempt to clear the ball was charged down. The Blues reacted slowly to a short period of pressure, which allowed Vaea Poteki to waltz over the line unopposed after Tonga created a large overlap with only three minutes gone.After this early shock Oxford began to assert themselves. The lineouts were solid and the good work upfront paid off when it allowed Tombleson to score a magnificent solo try. The ball was passed down the line to Tombleson who raced his opposite number to the line, diving into the corner. Whittingham knocked over a fantastic conversion and Oxford took a deserved 7-5 lead.Tonga’s game plan was clearly to use their power advantage to decisive effect. However, Oxford’s forwards excelled themselves, sucking up punishing bursts around the fringes and drives down the middle. For a while, the game descended into a stalemate. Only when half time approached did the match get going again. After the Blues had been denied a dangerous attacking position through Ross Lavery by a poor bounce off a grubber kick, Finau combined with Teviat Tiueti to score a breakaway try, converted for a 12-7 half time lead.In the second half Tonga’s sustained pressure began to tell. Finau burst through with such momentum that Oxford could barely catch him, let alone stop him. However, he was forced off after his second try, giving the Blues some much needed respite. Tombleson struck back immediately with another solo try, his jerky running leave Poteki watching from the ground as Tombleson sprinted to the line. Whittingham made another excellent conversion and with 25 minutes to go, the game looked even. However, Tonga now stepped up a gear. Vliiami Maasi was driven over the line in a thundering drive, Rodney Mahe scored after Tonga had been camping on the line and Eelisi Vunipola broke through with six minutes to go. There was one last opportunity for Tombleson to show off, and his run past three men lit up a poor last 20 minutes for the Blues.Tonga play a class of forceful rugby Oxford are unlikely to encounter again. Coach Steve Hill was proud that they “stood up to the physical side of the game”. With the final run in to Varsity now begins with a fixture against Major Stanley’s XV, and Oxford are ready to pounce.ARCHIVE: 5th week MT 2005