It has been a fantastic year for women’s rugby in Oxford, with the Blues celebrating their 30th Varsity Match against Cambridge in December, and the club hosting the first ever women’s college Cuppers in Oxford, with the winners to be decided in Trinity term.
The Women’s Reserves, the Panthers, have had a very successful season, which included a double win against a joint Oxford Brookes and Oxford RFC side. The culmination of their strong run was the Varsity match against the Cambridge Reserves, the Tigers, which this year was held at Grange Road in Cambridge. The Panthers had already watched Oxford Women’s U20’s dominate their match and beating the respective Cambridge side 33-0, so knew they had a lot to live up to. Suffice to say, the team did not disappoint.
The Panthers showed their confidence in their attacking formations, causing them to have possession for the majority of the match and leaving the Tigers much on the defensive. When possession was occasionally lost, the proactive nature of the Panthers side meant that every breakdown was an opportunity for a steal, every line out was up for contest and every scrum was theirs to dominate.
The first half exemplified the patience of the Panthers side with their signature ‘calm aggression’ pushing the Tigers further into their own half with every play. With twenty minutes played, Vice Captain Fran Roxburgh saw an opportunity down the blindside to score the first try and give the Panthers the advantage. However it was not to be, as the Tigers’ defence made a desperate high tackle in a last ditch attempt to keep the score level, which unfortunately caused Roxburgh to sustain a knee injury. This had a bitter sweet result, as it meant Meryem Arik was called from the bench to fill in, reinforcing the strength and depth in the Panthers squad.
Eventually, the first try for the Dark Blues came as a result of the patience and determination of the whole team, with quick hands down the line. Once the ball was in winger Maddie Hindson’s hands, it was a done deal and the score board ticked over in favour of the Panthers’ hard work. Unfortunately, the Panthers failed to make the score 7-0, after a narrowly missed conversion from Meg Carter, who nevertheless did well due to the extremely difficult angle.
Entering the second half of the match 5-0 did not mean the Dark Blues sat back, and the Panthers continued the game with a 0-0 mentality. After a strong series of attacks, number 8 Milly Cohen produced a fierce run from a scrum, which was followed by great use of the width with hands down the line supported by substitute Kehinde Lawal. This meant another try was on the table and yet again, Hindson finished the job resulting in 10-0 score for Oxford.
The later minutes of the game saw the Tigers have more possession in their end of the pitch than they had done all game. Despite strong defence from the Panthers, the Light Blues managed to find their way through with ten minutes to go and scored their only try of the game, dashing Oxford’s hopes for a clean sheet.
The last play of the game ended with another dominant scrum from the Panthers and a boot out from Milly Cohen signalled victory for the Panthers, who had displayed great cohesion between the forwards and backs throughout the game. The final score of 10-5 perhaps did not represent the commanding possession of the Panthers side, but it was a victory over Cambridge nonetheless.