The power and discipline of the Cambridge pack saw them march to a record equalling fourth successive win over Oxford in the women’s Varsity Match at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium.
The game was switched from its traditional home at Twickenham due to the pandemic and bridged a two-year gap to the last meeting in December, 2019.
Oxford got off to a flying start as they attempted to notch their first win since 2016. Within four minutes they grabbed the opening try of the game thanks to some good driving play from their pack which allowed their international duo of Manon Johnes and Binaca Coltellini to combine to send the Italian over.
Coltellini, usually a back row forward, was picked at centre, while Johnes, who plays in the back row for Wales, started at scrum half. She looked to have honed her new skills pretty well, but didn’t forget some of her more basic instincts by putting in some big tackles and getting some useful turn-overs.
Dark Blues skipper Fiona Kennedy pushed her conversion attempt wide, but at least her team had struck first. That score stimulated a big reaction from the Light Blues and it was Cambridge who dominated the territory for the next 20 minutes.
Using their highly efficient and effective forwards to make the hard yards they forced Oxford onto the back foot. Vianney Gomezgill-Yaspik
It was the long-striding Simpson who finally made the breakthrough for Cambridge midway through the first-half. Kennedy conceded a free-kick through a forward pass 30 metres out and Cambridge quickly moved the ball to the left into their star centre.
Simpson found a corridor to exploit up the touchline and she beat three defenders on her way to score a try that was superbly converted by No 8 Park to give the defending champions a slender lead. Shortly after the try came the rain and for the second quarter the conditions resembled those from two years earlier at Twickenham when the two teams had last met.
Park thought she had bagged a second Cambridge try just before the break when she went over after a defensive mix-up in the Oxford ranks, but the referee called her back for an earlier knock-on.
Cambride lost loose head prop Liz Stevenson to the sin-bin at the start of the second half for repeated infringements after an earlier warning, but the Dark Blues weren’t able to take advantage of their extra player. Then Oxford lost centre Megan Carter to a yellow card and Park stepped up to punish her deliberate knock-on with a 25 metre penalty.
Park had one final shot at the posts as the clock ticked down to a minute to go, but this time she was wide. Nevertheless, Cambridge hung onto their five-point lead and Park picked up the Bunting-Pegers award as the player of the match to round off her excellent afternoon.
Scorers: Oxford: Try: B Coltellini; Cambridge: Try: M Simpson; Con: A Park; Pen: A Park
OXFORD: C Holmes * (Chellaston Academy & University); M Hindson (Monks Walk School & University), M Carter * (Invicta GS & Lincoln), B Coltellini + (Hartpury College & Keble), H Potts * (Bolton Girls & New); F Kennedy * (Kingston GS & St Hilda’s, captain), M Johnes + (YG Glantaf & St Catherine’s); M Mellor (Ripon GS & Somerville), M Cadman (Merchant Taylor’s Girls’ School & St Hugh’s), J Abele * (Schickhardt Gymnasium, Germany & Exeter), K Collis * (City of London Freemen’s School & Lincoln), C Schmidt * (Paul-Pfinzing Gymnasium, Germany & New), M Isaac (King Edward VI, Camp Hill & Exeter), A Travers (Lady Eleanor Holles School for Girls & Worcester), H Cooper * (Bolton School & Worcester)
Reps Used: A Allum-Pearce (South Island School, Hong Kong & St Hugh’s), L Chor + (Hong Kong International School & Christ Church)
Reps Unused: R James (Altrincham Girls GS & Brasenose), G Gough (Rugby & Regent’s Park), I Maxfield (St Anne’s), R Martin (Brasenose), S Farmer (Church Stretton Secondary / Hereford College & Worcester), C Hawley (JESS Dubai & St Catherine’s)
CAMBRIDGE: E Halcrow * (Rugby HS & Murray Edwards); H Friend (Wycombe Abbey & Robinson), E Bell (St Philomena’s Catholic HS for Girls & Fitzwilliam), M Simpson (San Domenico School, California &Hughes Hall), E Jones (King Edward’s, Bath & Selwyn); E Clark * (South Holderness TC & St John’s, captain), C Russell (Stamford High School & Fitzwilliam); L Stevenson (Aiglon College, Switzerland & Darwin), C Spruzen * (Beaconsfield HS & Queens’), V Gomezgill-Yaspik (Bishop’s College School, Canada & St Edmund’s), S Hicks * (Colchester RGS & Selwyn), H Schneemann * (Regional School Community Pantarjin, Netherlands & Darwin), J Shuttleworth * (Olchfa CS & Churchill), F Shuttleworth * (Olchfa CS & Pembroke), A Park (Stanford University Online HS & Newnham)
Reps Used: R Osborne (Kingswood & St Catharine’s), L Bleehen * (Howell’s School, Llandaff & Girton), A Elgar * (South Wiltshire GS & Girton), R Scowen * (Greenhead College / Bradford GS & Magdalene), E Bushrod (Pencoed CS & Pembroke)
Reps Unused: C Prowling * (Rodillian Academy & St John’s), Jen Atherton * (Blackwell SS & Jesus), S Posniak (St Marylebone CoE School & St Catharine’s)
Referee: Nia Parsonage (RFU)