The time was here. The stage was set. The teams were ready. A grey and overcast Saturday of 1st Week provided the perfect conditions for the Women’s Rugby Cuppers Semi-Finals (although it certainly dampened the spirits of anyone attending the myriad of balls that evening).
At opposite ends of the city, women from a multitude of colleges battled it out.
Four strong teams, two tough games, yet only one great pitch (Iffley’s ground has a lot of catching up to do). Who would make it to the 2019 Women’s Rugby Cuppers Final?
At 9:45am on Saturday morning, the Fortress (St John’s sport’s grounds, which are pristine) played host to Saints (St John’s and St Anne’s) versus Turl Street (Jesus, Exeter, Lincoln and Brasenose).
The strength for the Saints side lay in their backs, yet it was Turl Street’s forwards who were the more experienced players, which already signalled that the game would be very exciting.
The first half saw some outstanding play from Turl Street’s Blues players who provided exceptional footwork and power which resulted in numerous breaks through the Saints’ defensive line.
Turl Street’s dominant pack enabled them to play a fast-paced game with skilful offloads and strong carries, and they were consequently able to go three tries up at half time. However, the game was not yet said and done, and at the start of the first half, Saints continued the fight which led to Charley Eaton Hart and Zoe Nunn both scoring, with Nunn securing one conversion. Despite these breaks from Saints’ most experienced players, Turl Street pulled themselves back together, and due to their long phases and control of possession, managed to score another two tries to extend their lead.
Five tries in total for Turl Street (two from Sydney Sopher and the others from Katie Collins, Meg Carter and Joss Barker), as well as two conversions from Meg Carter, saw the side eventually claim a 29-14 victory over Saints and secure their place in the final next weekend.
This was a massive victory for the team, especially as five of their players had never played contact rugby before that morning and were now able to look forward to another game in the upcoming days.
Later that day, it was the turn of Kebiel (Keble and Oriel) and University College, who met at 12pm at Iffley’s rugby pitch. The match saw two exceptional sides battle it out for a place in the final, making the game a big highlight for women’s cuppers this season.
Tries for Kebiel from captain Shekinah Opara, outgoing Blues captain Abby D’Cruz, Susy Rees and Evie Rothwell, as well as two conversions from Abby D’Cruz, meant Kebiel went 29-0 up with not much time left on the clock.
However, the Univ side remained determined and battled on until the very end, with two tries from Anna Bidgood and a conversion meaning the final score ended up as 29-12.
Nonetheless, despite this win looking solid on the scorecard, Kebiel really had to dig deep and fight for their victory, even though the team had more Blues players than their opponents.
This was a testament to how strong the Univ team were and the dedication of their development players, which has created a buzz around OURFC as it is a good sign for the future of the university team.
For OURFC, Cuppers are extremely important in highlighting players who are good enough to move along the player pathway; from Cuppers to the Panthers, and then maybe into the Blues squad.
Kebiel exemplified just how important it is for sides to focus on recruitment throughout the season, rather than becoming complacent halfway through.
This meant that on the day there were some stand out performances from complete novices such as Eloïse Phillips and Evie Rothwell, who was the only development player to score a try across the two semi-finals.
The strength and potential of development players is key for OURFC.
They have found that most of their university star players have come through the cuppers system, and therefore having a strong turnout of new recruits to cuppers each year means a lot to the club.
As for next week, the final is shaping up to be an extremely tough match, with many of the Blues players going head to head. Turl Street and Kebiel already met in the group stages of the competition back in Hilary, with Kebiel winning comfortably.
However, Blues players were not allowed to compete until the semi-finals.
This means that the final is expected to be a much more evenly-balanced and exciting match, especially since star Blues players Katie Collins and Sydney Sopher have made their return to the Turl Street side.