Cambridge won the 30th Women’s Varsity Match 8-5 at Twickenham today. This is their fourth win since 2015 when the women’s matched moved to the home of English rugby. Oxford last won in 2016 and fought hard today, coming back from 8-0 at the 74th minute with a try from lock Katie Collis. Cambridge’s early try, 28 minutes in, by number eight Emily Pratt gave them a surge after early Oxford dominance. Despite holding a large amount of the possession throughout the match the Oxford side failed to convert this pressure into points and ran out of time in the second half in what was a very closely fought game.
In the first half, sharp pace from the dark blues brought them very close to the try line and they kept the ball in Cambridge’s half. A powerful tackle from vice-captain Sophie Trott, who was competing in her fourth and final varsity match, led to a line-out which was won by Oxford. This was the start of a very strong game for Trott who along with Captain Abby D’cruz appeared to be the star players in dark blue, holding the team together and providing essential speed. After keeping the play under their control for 20 minutes Oxford responded to a quick attack from Cambridge with full back Connie Hurton acting as Oxford’s last line of defence and tackling the light blue player efficiently. Despite very good play from both Oxford winger Wigginton and Hurton (who today adds another blue to her cross country blue from 2017), Cambridge put into a scrum just meters from Oxford’s try line and Pratt was able to take a try for the light blues. Cambridge were unable to convert however and five points down Oxford’s women pushed onwards, led by Lock Shekinah Opara. After powerful clashes both Coleman and Bradshaw for Cambridge were treated for blood injuries and taken off with seven minutes of the half remaining. With five minutes of the half to go Katie Collis pushed over the Cambridge try line but was unable to touch down, unfortunately such scenes optimised the game, Oxford had chances and held onto possession but failed to convert into points. Going into half time Oxford certainly looked the better side but despite their efforts were unable to capitalise on their own strength.
From the restart Cambridge kept the game in Oxford’s 22 and gained a penalty with light blue Alice Elgar taking the kick and adding three more points to their total, nine minutes into the half. D’Cruz, often acting as the key screw in the Oxford machine made a break along with Wigginton and pushed into Cambridge’s half. After a string of replacements and Sophie Farrant, winger for Cambridge, being taken off on a stretcher with a leg injury, Oxford seemed to be making a comeback into the game. A renewed effort with eight minutes of the game remaining led to the dark blues edging ever closer to their try line, after a scrum and D’Cruz kicking into the corner, Oxford won their lineout and Katie Collis pushed over the line for Oxford’s first try. This was not only Oxford’s first try of the game but also their first at the Twickenham varsity match. Captain D’Cruz missed the all-important conversion which would have closed the score gap and it was starting to look like an Oxford win was falling out of grasp with four minutes remaining. Oxford won several more lineouts and kept possession allowing for Sophie Trott to sprint forward over 30 meters in a last dash for points, but time was up and Cambridge took the victory.
Player of the match was awarded to Cambridge’s Amelia Miller who at number 11 was able to contribute to Cambridge’s powerful advances. After the match Cambridge captain Kate Marks expressed that she “could not be prouder of every single one of [the Cambridge] girls”, she added that they had “worked so hard, every single girl has earned their shirt”.
Speaking to Cherwell after the match Oxford’s Sophie Trott said: “The work rate of the girls today was unbelievable. It was the best game of rugby we’ve played ever. Everyone managed to keep their heads. The standard this year, thinking back to my first year, the standard has grown exponentially.”
When asked about how it felt to be in the 30th women’s varsity match Trott said: “It was just a great display of rugby, of how aggressive it is and how hard people can hit, and its not just men that smash people, we do it too.”
Also speaking to Cherwell, Abby D’Cruz said that the women’s game has “come a really long way and I think the reason for that is the visibility that things like the Varsity match give to women’s rugby. There are loads of school kids here today, lots of young girls there knowing they can come to Oxford and Cambridge and play rugby and have that community.”
The occasion of the match was celebrated by past players of the Women’s Varsity match creating a guard of honour for the teams as they ran out onto the pitch. The player of the match medal was presented to Cambridge’s Amelia Miller by women’s captains Heather Lawrence (Oxford) and Sophia Mirchandani (Cambridge), who led the first women’s teams at the Varsity match in 1988.