Horspath Sports Ground played host to the 95th Varsity match played between fierce rivals, Oxford and Cambridge. The boundary quickly filled with supporters, providing an incredible atmosphere for what you could tell was going to be a brutal contest. The Oxford boys had the first win of the day, winning the toss and kicking with a slight wind advantage.
Right as the ball was bounced the heavens opened with pouring rain. Howling wind accompanied the rain and proved effective in clearing the boundary line full of supporters, all of whom sought cover under the solitary tent, made for a handful of supporters, not the 100 strong crowd seeking shelter.
The weather didn’t stop the brutal start to the match, with both teams flexing their muscles early on, showing they weren’t going to give the opposition any easy ball. As the weather cleared, the points started to flow. Cambridge were peppering the goals early, but could only come away with a handful of behinds. The Cambridge boys didn’t let the footy out of their forward 50 for the first half of the quarter. Oxford defended brilliantly, but eventually conceded, with Pat Stirling goaling for the visitors from a free kick. Oxford didn’t take long to reply, with a quick break from the centre bounce, earning them their first goal of the day seconds after conceding.
Both teams played with more freedom after opening their accounts. Number 11 from Oxford was rewarded with a goal for his herculean efforts, filling in as ruckman against a much bigger opponent. Goals were being traded like limited edition footy cards for the remainder of the quarter, with ill-discipline from both teams proving costly. Cambridge took a 4-point advantage into the first break, with their ruckmen, Jimmy Mackenzie, imposing himself on the game in a big way.
The second quarter played out much like the first, both teams going goal-for-goal. Reece Digance from Cambridge, was showing his class collecting a heap of the footy and distributing to his forwards with aplomb. Oxford Full-forward, Charlie Rae, made his presence felt on numerous occasions, crashing packs and goaling with almost every forward entry. The half ended with the scorecard reading 5.2. 32 to 5.7. 37 in favour of Cambridge.
No game of Aussies rules game would be the same without a good old fashioned BBQ. Full credit must go to the Oxford girls who backed up from their game earlier to feed the masses and keep the crowd happy during the main break of the game.
The tension was building around the ground with everyone sensing how important the game meant to the boys playing, with neither team giving an inch. Both teams came out for the second half raring to go and it showed, with massive hits being laid all over the ground. Kiran Patel from Oxford took it upon himself to lift the home side, laying big hit after big hit. The animosity between the two sides was building, at a few points nearly boiling over, with spot-fires ensuing after every contest. This sparked the crowd into another gear, with every tackle or bump being felt around the ground. Neither team gave away any ground in the 3rd term. The gap remained 5 points leading into the final term. One kick was all it was going to take.
The 4th and final quarter opened with the crowd erupting from an Oxford goal, the boys in Blue looked like they were going to run away with it. The home crowd advantage seemed all too much for Cambridge, with Oxford dominating early on. Charlie Rae marked and goaled from an impossible angle to put Oxford up by 7 points. The immense rival between these two old foes shone through with Cambridge refusing to give up and wrestle the lead back in their favour. The clock was quickly running out of time with both team equal on the scoreboard. Enter Oxford Captain, Kyle Turner, who slotted through what turned out to be the match winning goal with only a few minutes on the clock. The crowded erupted in jubilation, but it wasn’t over yet. Cambridge had one last attacking foray forward, with bullocking ruckmen, Jimmy Mackenzie, winning a free kick just outside the 50. The siren had sounded, Cambridge needing a goal to send the game into extra time. The fairy tale wasn’t to be with the distance proving too much. Final Scores 9.4. 58 to 7.10. 52, Oxford the victors.
Jimmy Mackenzie, from Cambridge, was awarded Best on Ground honours from the Umpires, who must be thanked for their efforts on the day. A big thankful to all those who made the day such a great success. No doubt both sides will be keen to lock horns again next year, but for now Oxford can enjoy the spoils of victory along with bragging rights over their university rivals.
Written by Benjamin Durance for AFL Europe