Vickerman's Cambridge exact revenge
December 10, 2009
Dan Vickerman lifts the trophy at Twickenham
© Getty Images
Cambridge banished memories of defeat a year ago by producing a scintillating display of attacking rugby to defeat Oxford 31-27 in the 2009 Varsity match at Twickenham.
Cambridge were led by Wallaby lock Dan Vickerman, who celebrated victory in his second Varsity appearance before joining Guinness Premiership side Northampton Saints. Cambridge came from behind to claim one of the game's most prized victories, with their attacking flair trumping Oxford's dominance up front.
Adding their names to a storied history littered with characters including Rob Andrew, Joe Roff, David Kirk, Gerald Davies and Gavin Hastings were Cambridge try-scorers James Greenwood, Will Jones, Ross Broadfoot, Jamie Hood and Man of the Match James Richards. Oxford's response came in the form of a penalty try and efforts from former Brumbies scrum-half Nick Haydon and a late consolation for centre Alex Cheesman.
The noise before kick-off came from a legion of schoolchildren massed in the south stand and the early running came from Oxford, who forced Cambridge fly-half Broadfoot in to two hurried clearances after some snappy early possession and a dominant display at the first scrum.
The first points should have gone to Oxford following a scything break by Kiwi fullback Chris Mahony, but a penalty under the sticks was reversed by referee Dean Richards after an indiscretion by skipper Dan Rosen.
Broadfoot sent his first shot at goal spiralling wide, but his effort followed some patient phase play from Cambridge for the first time in an otherwise disjointed opening. Oxford had the measure of their opponents in defence and possessed an greater attacking spark in the opening exchanges, highlighted by some superb link play in the loose by burly lock Ian Kench and Canadian international openside Stan McKeen, which was unfortunately wasted by a knock-on by centre Julian Allfrey.
Both teams showed willingness to run the ball, with last year's Oxford hat-trick hero Tim Catling producing two sharp breaks that were ended suddenly by textbook tackles that would have come in handy 12 months ago. Cambridge fullback Richards responded in kind by piercing the Oxford defence out wide, slipping a tackle and offloading to prop Thomas Harris.
The tight-head recycled well as Cambridge built pressure on the 22 but their momentum was wasted as Jones could find only touch with an offload.
Oxford were less forgiving with their next opportunity and they crushed the Cambridge eight with a series of scrums on their opponents' line. Wing William Browne set up position by pressuring his opposite number in to conceding a lineout and while they knocked on the ensuing scrum saw Cambridge driven back towards their line.
A penalty for collapsing was taken quickly by Haydon, who burrowed for the line but was disappointed by the TMO's decision. Nevertheless the five-metre scrum produced a raft of penalties that went Oxford's way, with the Cambridge pack battered in to conceding a penalty try.
Their response was swift as Richards continued to punch holes in the Oxford line with some deceptive running angles. His first break culminated in an isolated Jones being forced in to touch metres out but his second was followed by a great support line from Fred Burdon, who drew the defence and sent wing Greenwood scampering over in the corner.
Oxford began the second-half by extending their lead with a penalty from Swanson but they soon trailed for the first time. Jones, a willing support runner all game, rounded off some quick ball from scrum-half Doug Rowe by crashing through the Oxford midfield defence to score under the posts.
Swanson responded immediately with his second penalty, but Cambridge continued to find holes in the Oxford defence. A brilliant stepping break from Burdon again exposed the shaky Oxford midfield and when the ball was recycled another direct charge from the centre crated the space for Broadfoot to crash over in the corner.
The tit-for-tat scoring continued when Haydon's consistent sniping at the fringes produced Oxford's second try. The scrum-half cut back against the grain of the Cambridge defence and just had the momentum to wriggle across the line. Swanson's conversion gave his side a one-point lead heading in to the final quarter but it lasted all of a minute.
From the kick-off a brutish Cambridge maul set up field position just out from the Oxford line and quick ball allowed the excellent Richards to pick an angle towards the line. He was wrestled across the whitewash by a despairing tackle from Catling but the TMO was on hand again to award the try.
Hood capped an excellent cameo with Cambridge's fifth try, striding away from the shell-shocked dark blue defence to score out wide.
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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