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Oxford Blues have grey day against England Under-20s

After the sacking of England rugby men’s coach Eddie Jones, the men’s rugby Blues were the first team to face an England side under the leadership of new Director of Rugby Steve Borthwick. Fresh from their tour of South Africa, as well as strong results against invitational sides like Major Stanley’s XV, how would the hosts fare against a team consisting of England’s brightest prospects? 

In short, they wouldn’t fare particularly well. Despite the England side having a winger shown a yellow for a challenge in the air after just three minutes, the Blues couldn’t exploit their advantage and went down 7-0 after a grubber kick was unsuccessfully dealt with. A few minutes later, a scuffed clearance from Oxford fly-half Harry Bridgewater was punished with maximum efficiency by the English youngsters, taking the score to 14-0. As the first half drew on, the England Under-20s dominated set pieces and were remarkably solid in defence, limiting the Uni side’s attacking threat considerably. 

The second half began with utter dominance from the England Under-20s, but was met with solid Blues resistance. Big hits from prop Michael Fankah, as well as the discipline led by captain and Harlequins pro Tom Osborne, saw the Blues grow into the game slightly. However, after 18 minutes, the first points of the half were scored when the English youth side were rewarded for their dominance- realistically ending Oxford’s chance of getting a result. England added a further two tries, ending the game with a fantastic example of expansive attacking rugby. 

In some ways, a 33-0 defeat to the England Under-20s is to be expected. When looking at the former England Under-20 internationals, from World Player of the Year Maro Itoje to current captain Owen Farrell, it is no mean feat to get a result against the youth side. Yet, although facing a solid and well-drilled defence, the Blues will be thoroughly disappointed not to get any points on the board. The Blues’ backline too often looked flustered under the pressure from England, limiting opportunities to create attacking opportunities. 

Having said that, despite the result, there were a number of positives in the day. After selling over 2,000 tickets, the East and West stands were both full, as well as a thick crowd standing pitchside. If there was any doubt that students were becoming apathetic towards university-wide sports teams, this would dispel that. With cheap beer and cheap food also on offer, popping down to Iffley Road to back the Blues was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Regardless of the result. 

Image: Tom Farmer

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