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RUGBY UNION: Dark Blues woe at Henley upset
Oxford University 20,
Henley Hawks 23
Henley Hawks held on to inflict an embarrassing defeat on Oxford University at Iffley Road last night.
Hawks effectively fielded a second team, with only two of their starting XV from Saturday’s 85-3 hammering of Barking lining up for kick-off.
But they proved too strong for an Oxford side, who looked well below the standard they will need to give Cambridge a decent game at Twickenham on December 6.
This defeat, played in front of a sparse crowd, must act as a wake-up call for the Dark Blues, who now have four matches to get it right for their Varsity showdown.
Very few parts of the students’ game functioned, although No 8 Alex Waddingham, captain for the night, did his best to lead his struggling side.
Fly half Charlie Marr kicked Oxford ahead with a fifth-minute penalty and controlled the tempo early on.
Marr’s second penalty made it 6-0 on nine minutes, but Henley replied with a well-struck drop goal from their No 10, Adam Lubbock.
A raft of penalties made for a scrappy period, while the students did well to clear after Henley No 8 Rupert Crossland broke into their 22.
Hawks could have levelled, but Lubbock slipped as he struck a penalty awarded for a scrum infringement.
Henley kept coming and Oxford lock Tim Little was sin-binned.
From the resulting lineout, lock Andrew Cannock was driven over and Lubbock converted for 10-6.
Although Marr impressed with some probing kicks, Oxford twice lost attacking lineouts and failed to mount consistent pressure.
Henley ended the half on top, deservedly extending their lead with a Lubbock penalty.
Hawks picked up where they left off and scored a second try in very similar fashion on 47 minutes.
This time, Marr was the Blues man yellow-carded and captain Chris Emmett was driven over from the resulting lineout, Lubbock converting for 20-6.
Oxford started to find some rhythm and managed a close-range try on 56 minutes through Waddingham.
Marr converted to make it 20-13, but missed a straight-forward penalty to reduce the arrears further.
Lubbock slotted a three-pointer on 68 minutes and Henley led by ten again.
Flanker Gus Jones fumbled as he tried to break through for Oxford, but replacement scrum half Stuart Commins produced a moment of magic to tap and go from halfway.
His pace took him to the line and Marr converted for 23-20.
Such a close margin probably flattered the students, who are set to field a far stronger team against Russia on Sunday, and Henley were able to close out a deserved victory.
Oxford University: Hudson*, Wareham (Bramham-Law* 41), Cho (Boardman 59), Turner*, Dargan (Mather* 34), Marr*, McCulla (Commins 45), Anderson* (Park 72), Wisson (Grounds 41), Direen (Powell 59), Little, Fell (Craggs 20, Hitchings 51), Rickner, Jones, Waddingham (capt). *Denotes Blue.
Henley Hawks (starting XV): Haynes, Gillespie, Baggett, Lillington, O’Neil, Lubbock, Drake, Skipworth-Martin, Clarke, Manning, Clements, Cannock, Woodward, Emmett (capt), Crossland.
Referee: J Sullivan (RFU).