On a perfect afternoon for rugby at Iffley Road on Sunday, Oxford University welcomed Premiership opposition to Iffley road, a Worcester Warriors side, half of whose players had first team Aviva Premiership expe rience. This was the second visit of a top flight team to Iffley road, previously losing 18 – 20 to Newport Gwent Dragons back in October, and the fourth top flight fixture of the season with fixtures against Top Fourteen French giants Biarritz and Bayonne on tour in September.
The Blues rattled the strong Worcester side for the first fifty five minutes opening up a 25 point to 10 lead by playing attractive, controlled, attacking rugby. Unfortunately, Worces ter had not read the script and fought back in the last twenty five minutes to score 24 unanswered points, helped by a sin bin and a number of changes to the Oxford team, as coach James Wade tried different combinations with one eye on the Varsity Match in December.
Despite Worcester enjoying early territorial advantage, it was Oxford who struck first, fly-half Jacob Taylor (Keble) kicking a penalty after just three minutes. The Warriors then continued to press, but a break away up field resulted in the Oxford hooker Nick Gardner (St Anne’s), pilfering the ball at a maul and scampering in from twenty metres, Taylor adding the conversion. Soon after, the Blues added a second five pointer, when man mountain second row forward Will Rowlands (Pembroke – 6’8”, 18st), broke clear, before perfectly timing his nolook pass to the supporting wing Henry Lamont (New) who beat the cover to score a fantastic try out wide; Taylor was this time unsuccessful with the conversion. With their confidence high, characterised by great dominance up front (especially at scrum time) the Blues continued to exert pressure but could only add a second Tay-
lor penalty to their score, before Worcester hit back either side of half-time with two unconverted tries from centre Max Stelling and full- back Ben Howard. Oxford were not finished yet and ten minutes in to the second period extended their lead to 15 points, when Will Rowlands was driven over from a dominant rolling maul, Taylor once again adding the extras. It took a dubious yellow card for loosehead prop Lewis Anderson (Trinity) to loosen the Blues’ grip on the game, the tide started to turn against the home team as Worcester gained a foot hold. After sustained pressure and two tries conceded, the Blues found themselves 4 points down on the last play of the game the Blues went for broke, only to see a Worcester outside back intercept and beat the cover defence to the corner to leave the final score 34 points to 25.
The squad will now have a week’s intensive preparation for the visit of the Russian National team next Sunday, KO 3.00pm at Iffley Road, hoping to recapture the form of the first fifty five minutes yesterday.
Team: Lewis Anderson, Nick Gardner, Ian Williams, Michael Rickner, Will Rowlands, Gus Jones, James Harris, Graeme MacGilchrist, Samson Egerton, Jacob Taylor, Henry Lamont, Gav Turner, Matt Janney, Sebastian Williams, Edward Doe
Subs: Fraser Heathcote (Nick Gardner), Dean Irvine (Lewis Anderson), Michael Hannah ( Ian Williams), Tom Reeson-Price (Michael Rickner), John Carter (Graeme MacGilchrist), Matthew Shorthose (Samson Egerton), Marcus-Alexander Neil Henry Lamont)
Scores T: Nick Gardner (1), Will Rowlands (1), Henry Lamont (1) C: Jacob Taylor (2) P: Jacob Taylor (2)