Friday, 11 March 1988

First varsity match: report

DAVID HANDS, Rugby Correspondent

Oxford University .....6 Cambridge University ..8

Twenty years ago I did some writing for what was then the Cambridge student newspaper, Varsity. It had the usual mixture of intellectual heaviness and appalling humour and there was a sports desk, whose approach might be summed up in the pseudonym of the resident tipster, Auspice, which I thought was funny then and still do.

During a series on captains of university sport I interviewed the captain of women's cricket who said, as I left, that at least I had not been patronizing about women playing what was generally considered to be a man's sport.

The point of this preamble is that yesterday, at Iffley Road, Oxford and Cambridge played the first women's rugby match between the two universities. They worked hard to organize it, they worked even harder during it and both sides and their coaches (male) deserve immense credit for an afternoon spilling over with enthusiasm.

It was the first time Cambridge women have won a match and they did so on this occasion thanks to a try from a five-metre scrum in the final minute by Sophia Pegers, their captain, which brought them victory by two tries to a goal. This is no place to talk about the skills of the game since most of the participants have been involved in rugby only for the last five months and many of them have had to start from scratch.

Suffice it to say that to Barbara Skelly, with a delightful outside swerve, belongs the honour of scoring the first try in what, it is hoped, will become a series. Morgan played intelligently at stand-off half for Cambridge but the tackling was the outstanding feature of the game before Spash, in what amounted to an interception, got away from her own 22 for the try which, with Campbell Smith's conversion, gave Oxford the lead they defended for so long.

There are no blues - yet - for - women's rugby, though Cambridge bad a Blue, Mark Hancock, captain of the men's team, to help Andy Mason, their coach. They also, in keeping with modern trends, produced a sponsor, Kent and Curwen, a clothing company which supplied their red and blue kit while Oxford borrowed their colours from the men's team.

Oxford, it may be added, won the first men's university match 117 years ago, so Cambridge's women have belatedly provided some compensation.

Oxford University: Try: Spash Conversation: Campbell-Smith. Cambridge University: Tries: Skelly, Pegers.
J Wilcox (Keble); L Murphy (University), S Willis (St Hilda's), L Jordan (Pembroke), A Spash (St Hilda's) (rep: N Robinson, St John's); C Campbell-Smith (St John's), H Bunting (St Hugh's, capt); L Simon (St Hilda's), A Botting (St Edmund Hall), M Wells (St Peter's), J Beardsmore (Merton). H Devine (St Hilda's). T Kimber (Brasenose), J Wells (St John's) M Jorgenson (Christ Church).

K Ward (St John's); E Brooks (Homerton), H Rickards (Homerton), A Bruton (Lucy Cavendish), B Skelly (Newnham); A Morgan (Homerton), L Carr (St Catharine's); K Harris (Homerton), R Maurice-Smith (Homerton), L Laver (Homerton), C Blackford (Newnham). A Waitt (Homerton), C Slater (Newnham), L Whitfield (St Catherine's), S Pegers (Robinson, capt).
Referee: A Midha (Swansea).

Source Citation
"Rugby Union: Cambridge make up for their men." Times [London, England] 11 Mar. 1988.