American Eagles international Andrew Durutalo dominated the 139th Varsity Match to set up a 34-7 triumph for Oxford at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium.
The 32-year-old EMBA student, who has played at the Rugby World Cup and in the Olympic Sevens, walked off with the Alastair Hignell Medal as the player of the match for his barnstorming performance as the Dark Blues won a game played under adapted laws with no scrums or mauls.
Cambridge opened with one of the fastest tries in the 149-year history off the fixture when Joey Gatus scored after only 52 seconds, but once Etienne Dussartre’s conve
Oxford hit back to score four tries of their own, but had their performance marred by the sending off of replacement forward Herbert Watson in the 57th minute for making contact with the head of Matt West with his boot at a ruck near his line. He became only the second player in 139 games to receive his marching orders in the fixture.
The game got off to an explosive start with Cambridge scoring inside the first minute as they mounted a compelling attack from the game’s first line out. Oxford’s response to the kick-off was a short reply into touch and the Light Blues worked the ball into midfield where back row man Hugo Lloyd Williams made some ground.
Quick ruck allowed Charlie Favell to exploit the blindside and Fergus Jemphrey sent full back Gatus racing over in the left corner for the perfect start. Dussartre added the extras and the reigning champions were up and running.
But after such a bright start their captain Stephen Leonard would have been unhappy at the way they slipped off the pace as Oxford’s pack began to dominate. With the American Eagles back row international Andrew Durutalo using his experience and physicality to make an impression, the Dark Blues began to dominate the collisions, territory and the game.
Outside half Tom Humberstone kicked the first of his three penalties in the 14th minute to get Oxford on the board and then two drives from Durutalo took them to within a few inches of the Cambridge line. The ball was then released to the backs and a long, floated pass from Humberstone to replacement wing Henry Hackett allowed him to cross in the left corner.
That edged Oxford ahead 8-7 midway through the first half and they never looked back from there. With props Euan Friend and John Aaron Henry joining Durutalo and skipper George Mussum in breaching the gain-line, the game became tougher and tougher for Cambridge.
A second Humberstone penalty extended the lead and then Henry made up for missing two line-outs by throwing short to Messum and taking a return pass to score in the right corner. That made it 16-7 to Oxford at the break.
Cambridge needed to score next to get back into the game, but Oxford maintained their vice-like grip on the forward battle and after Friend had been held short, scrum half Calum Grant dummied his way ove from close range for a third try which Humberstone improved.
There were two more penalties to Oxford to extend the lead to 22 points, one from Humberstone and a long-range effort from his younger brother, Andrew, and then a final flourish that saw Hackett grab his second try with a breakaway score to complete the scoring.
Scorers: Oxford: Tries: H Hackett 2, J Henry, C Grant; Cons: T Humberstone; Pens: T Humberstone 3, A Humberstone. Cambridge: Try: J Gatus; Con: E Dussartre
OXFORD: D Stoller * (Wellington College & Queen’s); L Jackson * (King Edward VI, Stratford & Oriel), N Greenhalgh * (Uppingham & Keble), A Humberstone (Peter Symonds College & Wolfson), R Quinlan (Enfield Grammar CS & Jesus); T Humberstone * (Peter Symonds College & Jesus), C Grant (The Oratory & St Anne’s); J Henry * (Cambridge House GS & Somerville), W Barker (Felsted & Keble), E Friend * (Blundell’s & University), J Dix * (The Perse & Oriel), P Von Dadelszen (Whitgift & St Edmund Hall), S Miller * (Harrow & St Edmund Hall), A Durutalo + (Suva GS, Fiji & Green Templeton), G Messum * (Aylesbury GS & Kellogg, captain)
Replacements: L Wright * (Dulwich College & Trinity), B Vaughan * (Bradford GS & Corpus Christi),
M Dennis-Soto + (European School of Luxembourg & Kellogg), C Papworth (Sedbergh & Jesus), H Watson * (Latymer Upper & St Edmund Hall), R Tegner (St Paul’s & Pembroke), H Hackett * (The Perse & Christ Church), O Marriott-Clarke (Eton College & Magdalen)
CAMBRIDGE: J Gatus * (QEGS, Wakefield & Corpus Christi); S Isaacs (Merchant Taylor’s, Northwood & Hughes Hall), S Chibale (South African College Schools & Queens’), J Hennessey * (King’s College, Wimbledon & Trinity), F Jemphrey * (Sullivan Upper School & Homerton); E Dussartre (Lycée Lakanal & St Catharine’s), C Favell (Stortford College & Homerton); D Collins *( Maria Immaculata Community College & Fitzwilliam), J Chaudhry (RGS, Newcastle & Homerton), M Pettit (Lancaster RGS & Clare), T Walton (Nottingham HS & St John’s), Z Bischoff (Magdalen College School & St John’s), H Lloyd Williams (Highgate & St John’s), D Obembe (St George’s, Weybridge & Churchill), S Leonard * (Llandovery College & Emmanuel, captain)
Replacements: L Parry (Merchant Taylor’s, Northwood & Downing), B Jackson (The Minster School & Sidney Sussex), I Kasem (St Olave’s GS & Emmanuel), J Blair Jack Blair (Woodleigh School, Australia & Hughes Hall), M West (Hill House & St John’s), J Elms (Brentwood & Magdalene), M Loveridge (Nottingham HS & Jesus), D Russell (Warblington School & St John’s)
* Denotes Blue
+ Denotes International
Referee: Andrew Jackson (RFU)