Oxford University 27

(Tries: King, Kearns, Jackson, McGagh, Stileman. Con: Kearns.)

Cardiff 5

(Try: Bratcher.)

A BELOW-PAR Oxford University made hard work of beating an under-strength Cardiff in a revamped Major Stanley’s Match at Iffley Road.

Alasdair King, Conor Kearns, Louis Jackson, Dylan McGagh and Tom Stileman went over in the 97th edition of the annual fixture which failed to live up to its billing.

The students deserved their victory, but should have scored more than five tries against a side hurriedly put together on the morning of the game.

Oxford will now turn their attention to next Saturday’s home fixture against Richmond as they finalise their preparations for December’s Varsity Match.

Due to recent difficulties in pulling together a representational side able to challenge the Dark Blues, Cardiff were invited as this year’s opposition.

But it proved not to be the test they had hoped for as the Principality Premiership outfit were hit by a number of drop-outs overnight and fielded a team which bore no resemblance to their publicised squad.

Oxford, kitted out in the white strip traditionally worn by the Major Stanley’s XV, headed into the fixture on the back of their victory over Trinity College Dublin on Saturday.

The students made a host of changes with Jackson and Kearns the sole survivors from the starting line-up at the weekend.

Head coach James Wade clearly had an eye on keeping his squad fresh ahead of the Varsity Match in three weeks’ time, but captain Dom Waldouck had been in line to play before suffering an injury in the warm-up.

The combination of a much-changed Oxford side and an under-strength Cardiff, who were wearing the hosts’s traditional dark blue jerseys due to a kit clash, resulted in an error-strewn opening 20 minutes.

But the first moment of quality led to the opening score as Henry Martin breezed through the defence and found Jackson who was on the end of a high tackle.

Cardiff’s winger was sin-binned as a result and the hosts kicked to the corner where a catch and drive saw prop King go over for an unconverted try on 22 minutes.

It was soon 10-0 with Kearns breezing over, but Jackson was again off target with his conversion attempt.

Cardiff had yet to enjoy any territory and were fortunate to still be in the game at half-time with Oxford’s second string lacking a killer instinct.

However, a rare moment of magic three minutes after the break led to Oxford extending their lead to 15 unanswered points.

Jackson collected the ball 50 metres out and breezed past three tacklers to go over in the corner. Kearns took over the kicking duties, but his conversion attempt struck a post.

Oxford continued to dominate but were unable to extend their advantage despite being camped inside their visitors’ half for 15 minutes.

The match was petering out with half an hour still to play, but George Robson’s introduction to the field livened things up.

The experienced lock, who made more than 200 appearances for Harlequins, was sin-binned within 60 seconds of coming on for triggering what can only be described as handbags between the players.

Cardiff got on the scoresheet when Mike Bratcher went over for an unconverted try with ten minutes remaining.

But Oxford scored twice more through McGagh and Stileman, Kearns converting the former, as they easily won a below-par game which will not live long in the memory.

Oxford University: Fraser (Stileman 5), Martin (Haughton 46), Haddock, Kearns, Clarke, Jackson, McGagh, King (Oswal 53), Navarajasegaran (Morris 60), Hennessy (Henry 60), Warr (Dix 60), Adams (Robson 60), Louveaux, Jones, Ridgway (Adams 73).