Cambridge University and Oxford University rugby teams raised over £15,800 for disability charity Leonard Cheshire in the annual Varsity Match showdown at Twickenham on Thursday 12 December. Cambridge men and women secured a double Varsity victory over their arch-rivals.
In the 138th men’s Varsity Match, Cambridge won 15-0 in a rain-drenched encounter with two tries from left winger Fergus Jemphrey and one from scrum half Chris Bell. In a very close 33rd women’s Varsity Match, Cambridge centre Coreen Grant scored a spectacular late try with a 40-metre solo run to secure an 8-5 victory for Cambridge.
David Warren, a resident at Leonard Cheshire’s The Manor care home in Cambridgeshire, thoroughly enjoyed watching the Varsity Match 2019.
He said: “I really enjoyed it all. Great day! I’m really glad Cambridge won both matches.”
Since the partnership between Varsity and Leonard Cheshire began in 2014, it has so far raised over £200,000 for the charity’s UK care homes, employment schemes, community projects and international education programmes.
Disabled fans living at The Manor backed the Light Blues of Cambridge, while residents at the charity’s Oxfordshire care home Agnes Court backed the Dark Blues of Oxford. Players on both sides visited their local Leonard Cheshire homes in the Autumn. On Thursday the residents were among more than 50 disabled adults from Leonard Cheshire services across the UK who came to the home of rugby to watch the Varsity Match.
Cambridge men’s captain Stephen Leonard, a medical student at Emmanuel College, said: “The Varsity Match is always a special occasion and it felt phenomenal to lead Cambridge to victory. I am delighted that The Varsity Match partnered with Leonard Cheshire. The money raised will help the great work of the charity, and it’s great that we can reach out to the community around us.”
Cambridge women’s captain Fiona Shuttleworth, who is studying Veterinary Medicine at Emmanuel College, said:
“I am incredibly proud of all the team. We showed enormous character and determination to pull off the win. It’s absolutely wonderful that the Varsity Match has raised such a huge amount of money for Leonard Cheshire. We look forward to continuing our partnership and raising more money in the future.”
Player of the match in the women’s game went to Cambridge star Coreen Grant, with the men’s award going to another key try scorer, Fergus Jemphrey. Jemphrey’s excellent performance earned him the Alistair Hignell medal, awarded in person by the 64-year-old former rugby star. Hignell, a former Cambridge captain and England international who has multiple sclerosis, is the record Varsity points scorer and a Leonard Cheshire ambassador.
The men’s Varsity Match began in 1872, and Cambridge currently have a 64-60 lead over Oxford. The women’s Varsity Match began in 1988, and Oxford have a 19-14 lead. Cambridge women are now hot on their heels with a hat-trick of victories.
Cambridge women’s scrum half Kate Marks, a history student at Newnham College, said: “It’s always very special to play at Twickenham. We knew it was going to be a tough game against Oxford. We also knew we could score. Our matchwinner Coreen is an incredible player, and this win is not something we’ll forget in a hurry.”
“We’ve had three wins in a row now and each one is special in its own way – this one because we’ve got a lot of new girls who have come through the development system and built the squad.”
Kate added: “The partnership with Leonard Cheshire is incredibly special and something we try to build on every year. It’s nice to be able to give back to the charity and the local community.”