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Hugo Batten has published 4 articles

Legal eagles spread their rugby wings

Hugo Batten reports on a glorious day out at Iffley as a Rugby Sevens tournament proves an unexpected treat
Hugo Batten on Monday 30th April 2012
Photograph: Basil Vincent

Last Saturday the inaugural Freshfields Rugby Sevens took place. Keble, Univ, St Peter’s, Christ Church and a Freshfields Invitational were invited to compete in a roundrobin tournament played out over the course of an afternoon at the hallowed Iffley turf. Freshfields, in their munificence, provided free beer, a rather delicious hog on a spit and, less importantly, some referees. Forming a sort of warm up round before Sevens Cuppers in the weekend of 2nd week, the day was competitive but bloody good fun throughout, with standards surprisingly high after a vac (and after Exeter Ball, which claimed a few participants).

Univ were desperately unlucky to lose their captain early to a dislocated shoulder, and were even more unlucky to lose Blues prop Lewis Anderson, who had been rather damaging to that stage, to a knee injury. As such, after a spirited opening few games, they fell away slightly as injuries took their toll.

Christ Church, too, were disadvantaged in that they only had seven players turn up. Despite this setback, they performed courageously and their fly-half was a deserved player of the tournament; there was also a notably lofty kick-off specialist.

St Peter’s were also excellent, with stand out player Louis Pirkis regularly troubling every defence, and were unlucky to lose a couple of narrow games.

Freshfields, whilst being excellent and generous hosts, demonstrated slightly less acumen on the rugby field. The years of billing in six-minute intervals and corporate lunches perhaps, alas, left the team somewhat short of peak physical condition and unable to match the youthful vim of the various college teams.

Keble, ultimately, were deserving winners of a tight tournament. Oakley Cox, the Keble centre, was magnificent and repeatedly scythed through the opposition’s back-line. Cox scored over ten tries across the four games, and was narrowly pipped to the post for the day’s most valuable player. Keble might also have boasted the try of the day when a length of the field series of passes was converted into the most elegant of tries. After some messy but watchable play, Keble fly-half, Hugo Batten, weighted a delicate kick across the field and over the opposition line to land neatly for Keble’s indefatigable centre, Talfan Evans, to collect and score.

The spirit throughout was cheerful, and though the weather turned several times over the course of the day, the players were kept very happy by the cold beers and delicious hogroast. Indeed, one commented that it was one of the best days out he’d had all year in Oxford.

After a tense finish, and once the opaque and mysterious points system was calculated and totted up, Keble emerged as winners (with two bottles of Moët for their troubles), Univ a close second.

Ultimately though, the real winners on the day were Freshfields who must go down as the first company in history to create an on-campus meet-and-greet that wasn’t full of MBAs discussing Chad or European trade imbalances; incorporated both a hog-on-a-spit and exercise; and left the participants warmly disposed to the host company

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