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Rugby News

Honours shared in Battle of the Blues

Honours were shared when The Varsity Matches came to Mattioli Woods Welford Road for the first time on Sunday.

After a century at Twickenham, the home of the Leicester Tigers hosted the Battle of the Blues, with Cambridge recording a fourth win in a row in the women’s fixture while Oxford turned the tables in the men’s contest.

Former Tigers and England captain Peter Wheeler, past president of the RFU, handed over the trophies at the end of two hard-fought games played mostly in sunshine, in contrast to the last meeting in 2019 at a rain-soaked Twickenham.

Cambridge retained the Women’s crown with a 10-5 victory in the opening game of the afternoon, while Oxford’s men responded with four tries in a 34-7 victory in their head-to-head.

It was Oxford who drew first blood in the women’s game with Italy international centre Bianca Coltellini scoring to the right of the posts, but Cambridge dominated the next quarter of an hour, though they had to wait for a score after Fiona Shuttleworth was held up over the line.

The try came when centre Maggie Simpson brushed aside tacklers on the left to score in the corner and Anna Park added a well-judged kick from the touchline to put Cambridge 7-5 ahead.

No8 Park then had a try disallowed but the Light Blues stayed 7-5 in front at half-time.

Both teams had to cope with second-half yellow cards but it remained a close contest, with Park – winner of the Peggers/Bunting Medal as player of the match – finally adding to the score with a penalty with just over 10 minutes remaining to make it 10-5 and they closed out the victory, their 13th in 34 contests.

The Men’s game was less than a minute old when Cambridge opened the scoring through full-back Joe Gatus, and the conversion was added by Etienne Dussartre for an early seven-point lead.

A penalty from Tom Humberstone got Oxford on the board and they then created a score in the left-hand corner for replacement wing Henry Hackett on the 20-minute mark to take the lead for the first time at 8-7 and were never headed from that point.

Fly-half Humberstone kicked a penalty on half an hour and the Dark Blues added to that advantage with a quick change of passes at the front of a lineout for prop John Aaron Henry to score in the right-hand corner for a 16-7 lead at half-time.

After another penalty early in the second half, scrum-half Calum Grant supplied a third try from close range and Humberstone’s conversion made it 26-7.

Cambridge thought they’d forced their way back into the contest with a score from hooker Luke Parry, but before Dussartre could take the conversion kick, referee Andrew Jackson intervened, chalking off the score and showing a yellow card to Cambridge forward Matt West then red to Oxford’s Herbert Watson.

Play came back for a penalty but the Light Blues were shut out and then a penalty from Andrew Humberstone at the other end made it 29-7.

A second try for Hackett made it 34-7 with less than five minutes left on the clock to ensure Oxford would overturn defeat in the last meeting in 2019.

Flanker Andrew Durutalo, a US Eagles cap, received the Alastair Hignell Medal as Player of the Match, as chosen by guests Tony Underwood and Tyrone Howe.