UK Armed Forces U23 XV 36 Oxbridge U23 XV 48
The annual clash between UKAF and Oxbridge for the Northern Utilities Cup happened on Saturday at Twickenham after the annual Army v Navy match. The game was a physical and high tempo affair with both teams full of young and talented players determined to put on a good performance. The game started with both teams showing a willingness to spread the ball and test each other’s defence. Both teams put in good defensive efforts for the first few minutes of the game with the ball passing back and forth from forced errors. Oxbridge eventually found a hole in the defence and made a break but were pulled to the ground by the UKAF full back. UKAF were then in scramble defence mode and unfortunately couldn’t recover quick enough and Oxbridge went in for the first try. Oxbridge missed the conversion leaving the score 0-5.
A quality kick off from UKAF made Oxbridge lose the ball and UKAF transitioned into attack. The sustained pressure from UKAF forced a penalty and UKAF took the 3 points on offer with an accurate kick making the score 3-5 with only 10 minutes gone. UKAF kicked off and the next 10 minutes both teams showed some skilful ball handling and defence forcing each other to turn over the ball multiple times. The Oxbridge scrum was well drilled and forced a UKAF error which put Oxbridge on the attack in our half. Some quick hands and put Oxbridge in for another try, another missed conversion pushed the score line to 3-10. UKAF kick off again and again both teams are spreading the ball wide and defending hard. Racking up an few penalties and a warning from the referee the UKAF boys put themselves under pressure. Another penalty and the UKAF number 7 was given a yellow card, Oxbridge took full advantage and went in for their 3rd try again missing the conversion. Score is 3 – 15.
Rising to the challenge of being a man down the UKAF team put in a good kick off and applied some pressure to Oxbridge in their half. Following good tactical rugby from UKAF they were able to work and opening and put Aaron James in for their first try, the conversion was landed and UKAF were back in the game 10 – 15.
UKAF received the ball from the kick off and both teams are still playing fast aggressive rugby which was causing errors from both teams. Oxbridge line out was looking like their weak area, but they seemed solid in the scrum and off the back of a scrum they made a break and went in for their fourth try. This time the conversion is good, 10 – 22. UKAF kicked off and really push the Oxbridge boys hard for the next few minutes. The UKAF line out was looking good and consistently getting the boys on the front foot. Trying to push it into half time UKAF missed an opportunity with some extravagant ball handling see the ball go to ground and the half time whistle.
Half Time UK Armed Forces U23XV 10 Oxbridge U23 XV 22
The second half started very much the same as the first with both teams playing high tempo rugby and putting in strong defensive efforts. UKAF knew they had to score first and they had an pportunity from the previously dominaant Oxbridge scrum. The ball was fumbled at the base allowing the UKAF team captain, Ryan Crowley to pounce on possession, break the first tackle and kick through. It was a foot race to the line with Crowley looking the winner until he was taken off the ball. The referee felt it was not a fair shoulder to shouder charge and went under the posts for the penalty try. Oxbridge's lead reduced to 17-22.
Oxbridge kicked off and in the first few collisions a player from each side went down with injuries forcing a stop in play. Neither injury was serious and play is restarted with an Oxbridge scrum and as the ball comes out they knock on gifting UKAF a scrum themselves. UKAF get the ball out quickly and try some expansive play which nearly goes wrong but the retain the ball and make a clean break down the left wing. Oxbridge intercept the ball as UKAF were challenging the goal line but their scrambling defence was strong and allowed UKAF to regain possession. As is so often the case turn over possession is the most dangerous and a clean break from UKAF brought their third try and with the conversion they gained the lad for the first time in the match, 24-22.
UKAF receive the ball from the kick off and clear their lines but Oxbridge run it straight back and secure a penalty in the ruck. A quick tap ends in a mistake from them under some strong UKAF defence which relieves the home team's pressure. UKAF are quickly back on the attack themselves and following some good, fluent play, thought they had extended their lead with a fourth try only for the referee to chalk it off for a forward pass. It gave Oxbridge the opportunity to relieve the pressure but another error from the resultant scrum gifted UKAF the opportuty to cross again and this time the try was awared. The conversion was missed but UKAF had extended their lead to 29-22.
From the kick off it was UKAF's turn to make an error allowing Oxbridge to regain possession, but an interception put UKAF back on the attack. However loose work at the breakdown allowed Oxbridge to steal the ball and they managed to relive the pressure by clearing their lines with a good clearance. Oxbridge then pressured the UKAF lineout and stole possession. They set a strong maul pushing the UKAF forwards back over their try line allowing Oxbridge to score a try and level the match were a successful conversion, 29 – 29.
UKAF put in a strong chase on the kick off and force a poor kick out of Oxbridge which doesn’t find touch. UKAF run it back but an error gifted Oxbridge the scrum. UKAF put in a strong push in the scrum but the referee wasn't happy and gives a penalty against the home side for not driving straight. Oxbridge go on the attack again working their way down to our try line and eventually draw another penalty for one of the UKAF players coming into the ruck from the side. Oxbridge attacked quickly and crossed for a try, the conversion was good 29 – 36.
Oxbridge receive the ball from the kick off and fail to find touch on the return kick. Sustained pressure and quick handling from the UKAF team saw the Oxbridge defence give way and UKAF go under in under the sticks for the try, a simple conversion and again the match was level, 36 – 36.
The kick off from Oxbridge was a good one and though UKAF took the ball cleanly they were bundled into touch. The Oxbridge lineout didn't go to plan but they were able to retain possession and make use of poor ball. Following some quick handling and good footwork they turned the set back in to a well worked try and the regain of the lead 36-43 as the match drew to its end.
The game was then sealed asOxbridge regathered possession from the kick off and were soon back applying ressure o nthe home side. A poor UKAF clearance gifted Oxbridge an attacking lineout. Again they build another strong maul before pushing for the line. Though UKAF match them initially Oxbridge keep their shape and forward pressure before eventually driving over for a mtach winning score. The conversion was missed but Oxbridge had extended their lead, 36-48 and UKAF were unable to respond in the last few minutes of the game.