Rugby League Varsity Match
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The Rugby League Varsity Match is an annual rugby league match between Cambridge University and Oxford University. It is played at the Honourable Artillery Company in London, England, usually in the first week of March. The 2014 match took place on Thursday 6 March. Oxford, the winners of the match 40-0, received the KJ Lee Trophy which was donated by the father of a former Oxford player.
The Varsity Match was one of only three varsity events to be televised and used to be shown live on Sky Sports. The Varsity Match is currently played at the Honourable Artillery Company, Moorgate in front of about a thousand travelling supporters.
Dan Garbutt is the Oxford head coach and Jack Baker of St Peter's College is the Oxford captain. Andy Champ is the Cambridge head coach and James Tennison of Trinity College is the Cambridge captain.
The first Oxford versus Cambridge University match took place in 1981. The varsity match has 'discretionary full blue' status.
The first university rugby league game was between Leeds and Liverpool in 1968. A year later the Universities and Colleges Rugby League was formed after student pioneers fought hard to get the sport recognised in higher education.
A chance conversation between three Oxford students on a train to Wales to see the touring Australians defeat Wales sowed the seed of rugby league at Oxford, less than two years' later the first-ever Oxford club side, Oxford Sharks, an even mix of students and locals, took to a rented council pitch to play Peckham.
By the end of the 1976 season, they had won university recognition and were able to rename themselves Oxford University Rugby League Club, only the second-ever student team in the south of England.
Cambridge University Amateur Rugby League Football Club was formed in November 1980 by Dick McConnel, a former New Zealand Student International. Their first game took place on 2 December 1980 against Reading University which they lost 40–2.
The first Varsity match took place on Sunday 26 April 1981 at Craven Cottage, Oxford winning 16–9 in front of a crowd of over 800. The Oxford team was captained by Tim Muff and club President was Keith Lawson. The well known professional referee Mick Naughton took charge. The game was played two weeks later than originally scheduled due to a flooded pitch. This caused a problem in the Oxford camp as two regulars were forced to return to their native USA before the match. Two players, Pat Wall and Joe Horsley consequently made their rugby league debut in the rearranged fixture.
The first full rugby union Blue to play in the fixture was Cambridge scrum half Simon Roberts, who played under the name "Robert Simons" in the 1983 fixture at Maidstone. The first open double Blue was Oxford's John Risman, son of Bev Risman.
The only draw so far was in 1994 when Cambridge came back with two late tries to level in the last minute.
In 1998 Pcubed became the title sponsor of the "Pcubed Varsity Match" and have been the title sponsor ever since – possibly the longest running commercial title sponsorship in Rugby League.
The first-ever Old Boys Varsity was held before the 2002 game at Richmond, which Cambridge narrowly won.
The 17–16 winning margin for Cambridge in the 2005 Varsity Match was the closest in the events history, Cambridge coming back from 16–0 with 25 minutes left, half-back Alex Drysdale scoring a last minute drop goal to win the match.
On 28 February 2006, Cambridge University won 44–0. This was the first ever nilling in the history of the match, and it was until 2012 the biggest margin of victory as well. The match was played at the Twickenham Stoop for the first time.
Oxford won the 2007 match 20-14.
In 2008, Oxford won the match by 28 points, at that time the biggest winning margin by Oxford in the history of the fixture. This record was eclipsed by a further 16 points in 2011.
2009 represented the first year a reserve-grade Varsity match was played at St Mary's University, Twickenham; this was won by Oxford's 2nd XIII (the 'Maroons'). In the Varsity match itself, however, Cambridge extended their overall lead in the series with a 20–4 victory.
2010 was the 30 year anniversary of the fixture and was marked with a pulsating clash in which Cambridge led 16–0 before Oxford scored 26 unanswered points and ultimately led 26–22 going into the last five minutes of the game. A try with the last play ensured a 32–22 victory.
2011 saw the 31st Varsity Match. Oxford were 18-0 ahead after 15 minutes and 36-0 ahead at half-time. The final scoreline was 60-16 to Oxford, equaling at the time, their largest ever winning margin and increasing by ten points the record for the most points scored by a single team, a record that had stood for 18 years.
2012 was a year for the record books yet again. Playing at Richmond Athletics Ground, Oxford came away as 48 - 0 victors. This was now a new winning margin in the history of the game, the first time Oxford had won 3 matches in a row and the first time Cambridge had been kept off the scoresheet.
2013 saw the fixture move to the Honourable Artillery Company ground in the city of London. The fixture was also played on a Friday afternoon for the first time. The result of the match was a fourth consecutive victory for Oxford 32-4, and in so doing levelled the series 16 all with one draw.
2014 saw the 34th instalment of the Varsity Match. Oxford took an 18-0 lead into half time with a man down due to a late tackle resulting in a sin bin. The full-time result stood at 40-0 to Oxford as they equalled Cambridge's record for consecutive victories of 5 and took a lead in the amount of series wins, 17 - 16 with one draw. Also 2014 saw another reserve-grade varsity match, this being played at Luton RFC on Tuesday 4 March at 7:30pm. Oxford 'Maroons' ran out winners 48-16.
By total wins
|Total matches||Cambridge victories||Oxford victories||Draws|
Most points scored in a Varsity Match:
Oxford: 60 (2011), Cambridge: 50 (1993)
Fewest points conceded in a Varsity Match:
Oxford: 0 (2012, 2014), Cambridge: 0 (2006)
Biggest winning margin in a Varsity Match:
Oxford: 48 (2012), Cambridge: 44 (2006)