The victorious Oxford skipper from the 139th ‘Battle of the Blues’ is all set to hang up his boots having notched a second win over Cambridge at Leicester last weekend. The 34-7 victory came after his side had conceded one of the fastest tries in the history of the fixture.
Light Blues full back Joe Gatus crossed in the left corner within 52 seconds of the start to give Cambridge every hope of holding onto the Rhino Trophy, but Messum was able to galvanise his men and inspire them to a dominant performance from there on.
The 29-year-old former England Students captain made his debut in the Varsity Match in 2014, was captain for the next season, although missed the Varsity Match, and returned for another crack in 2019.
He was voted in as captain for a second term after the defeat two years ago, but had to hand on for 18 months before finally getting the chance to lead his team due to the complications of COVID.
“We had in the back of our minds that just getting to the start line in Leicester was going to be some form success, but then the real race began,” said Messum.
“We all probably thought the game might not go ahead, so we are all just so delighted to have been able to get the chance to make some great memories that will stay with us forever.
“We knew Cambridge would be coming out firing because they have some very good backs. That early try was a good sharpener for us.
“It was a chance for us to re-set and then get into our game and get into our processes. We didn’t have to do anything flash, we just wanted to come out with the right outcome and I was delighted with our resilience.
“I told them to stick to the basics, carry hard and to trust our defensive shape. I was delighted the players were able to execute and show what it meant to them.”
Messum, who will now be handing up his boots as he heads back into the world of industry, was full of praise for the American international, Andrew Durutalo, who played alongside him in the back row. He was the winner of the Andrew Hignell Medal as the man of the match.
“Andrew has been phenomenal for us in setting standards from the first minute he came in. He picked up the undergrads and was a phenomenal person to lead us into battle. He should feel very proud of his efforts for this team,” said Messum.
For the 32-year-old Durutalo it was the perfect way to celebrate on American Independence Day and he made it a USA double as the player of the match in the women’s game was the Cambridge No 8 Anna Park.
“World Cup, Olympic Sevens and now the Varsity Match, it seems like I’ve got the Royal Flush. This is one of those games you want to be a part of and I’m just happy we were able to come away with a win against a very physical Cambridge side,” said Durutalo.
“It was 4th of July so I felt I had to turn up and represent all the Americans who had played before for Oxford in this great fixture.
“These are the type of games that if you aren’t on it you’ve had it. It was pretty frantic from the get-go and the rivalry between the two universities is very real and fantastic. Their early try was a wake-up call for us and a test of our resilience having had to wait for 18 months for this game and having had to go through everything that COVID had thrown at us.
“The boys stuck together and finished off strong. That early try for them was just a lapse in concentration and we all knew it was fixable.
“Physicality is non-negotiable, especially with the new law variations under which we had to play. With no scrums or mauls we placed a big emphasis on stepping up our physicality in contact – it was hard out there and a good reminder for me to stay retired.”