Both men’s and women’s Blues rugby sides have started their season successfully, with several fixtures, both for BUCS leagues and friendlies, taking place in the first weeks of term. The men’s Blues took on the Croatian national team at Iffley Road, and ultimately proved too strong for the international opposition. The home side scored twelve tries, including six from Tom Stileman, who provided a hat-trick in each half, and eight tries were successfully converted. The opposition fought hard, but were only able to come up with two in reply, meaning the final score was 76-10 to the Blues. Meanwhile, the Men’s 2nd XV, the Greyhounds, headed to Aldershot to play the Army U23s. The opposition started on top, gaining a penalty after only a few minutes, but from then on, the Oxford side were dominant, scoring three tries in the first half and two in the second, ending with a final score of 33-3.
The women’s team fronted a mixed Blues and Panthers squad to play a friendly against Bath Ladies Spartans, which saw an impressive twelve tries scored, of which five were converted, with none in reply from the opposition, and a final score of 70-0 for Oxford. Abby D’Cruz alone scored two tries and five conversions, while Meg Carter, Connie Hurton and Clodagh Holmes also contributed two tries each.
Following this, the other Army U23s team who were due to play the men’s Blues the following weekend were forced to pull out, meaning that the game was instead turned into an internal competition between the Blues team and the OURFC second team, the Greyhounds. Dubbed the first ‘Friday Night Lights’ fixture of term, this was a good chance to put both teams against each other in an exhibition of all OURFC has to offer.
The first half was very close, and play stopped at half-time with a score-line of only 7-0, with the Greyhounds having much to be proud of. However, as the second half went on, the Blues’ quality began to show itself, and a further four tries were scored, bringing the final score to 31-0. Tries were scored by Tom Stileman, Sven Kerneis, Dan Stoller, and Henry Martin, who bagged two. Louis Jackson smoothly provided two conversions, and Dan Stoller a third. Overall, although the score may have reflected differently, the match served to display the talent in both sides.
Due to the Greyhounds being tied up in this clash with the Blues, the Men’s 3rd team, the Whippets, stepped up to play their annual fixture against Kew Occasionals RFC on Saturday afternoon. This was the first fixture of the season for the 3rd XV, with a number of new players making their debut.
Last Wednesday saw the Women’s Blues team play their first BUCS match of the season against the University of Sussex. The Blues will play league matches against teams including Cardiff, Bristol and Cambridge later in the season. The match, played at home to a small but supportive crowd, was hard fought, and Oxford’s preseason work in Gibraltar seemed to pay off as the side came away with a 29-10 win. The Blues started the match with three tries from Sile Johnson, Hannah Cooper and Nina Jenkins, with one conversion from Abby D’Cruz. Sussex managed to respond with a try before half-time, and one again just after the break, bringing the gap between the two sides closer. However, the Oxford side responded with two tries from D’Cruz and another from Johnson, meaning the home side stormed to success. Forward of the match was awarded to Hannah Cooper for her efforts in attack, while Player of the Match was given to Abby D’Cruz.
Meanwhile, the Women’s 2nd team, the Panthers, played their first fixture, a friendly against Oxford Ladies, held at their pitch in North Hinksey Lane. For the first time, they are now in their own BUCS league, bringing further prominence to women’s rugby at Oxford, and this game was a good opportunity to practice before the start of the league’s season.
Although they lost the match, there was promising play all-round, with Jess Woods scoring her first try for the team, and overall the squad came away from the match with a positive feeling. The Panthers will play their first BUCS fixture away against Nottingham Trent on 23rd October.