Oxford University reclaimed the Varsity bragging rights as they ended two years of Cambridge University dominance with a 38-16 victory at Twickenham.
Eleven years on from winning the Heineken Cup at the home of English rugby, Dark Blues captain Dom Waldouck tasted success once again as Cambridge were brushed aside.
In man of the match and full-back Ben Ransom and fly-half Tom Humberstone, Oxford boasted the game’s two outstanding performers.
They scored tries through a brace from wing Dan Barley, flanker Charlie Pozniak, and Barley’s fellow wideman Tom Stileman. Humberstone also crossed and was inch-perfect from the kicking tea with five conversions and a penalty. Mike Phillips kicked three penalties for Cambridge and Nick Koster grabbed a late try, but it was not enough.
A fast-paced opening saw both teams look to run the ball with underdogs Oxford keen to show their intent with a series of impressive backs moves.
One such attack saw Dark Blues wing Stileman charge through, but when the ball was recycled, referee Nigel Owens penalised Oxford for holding on at the ruck.
Cambridge promptly went down the other end to open the scoring via a straight forward Phillips penalty. The kick gave the defending champions a 3-0 lead.
Oxford lost No 8 Sven Kerneis and hooker John Henry to injury which hardy helped and Phillips rubbed salt in the wound with a second penalty soon after.
Despite a 6-0 deficit, Oxford stayed true to their attacking instincts and turned down a kickable penalty in favour of the corner.
A try didn’t arrive, but Oxford were now back in the game and Humberstone knocked over a penalty to boost their hopes.
More pressure looked like it would then result in a score, but Oxford tighthead prop Joe Morris knocked on with the line gaping and it allowed Cambridge to relieve the pressure.
The Light Blues thought they’d moved further clear when Humberstone kicked through and wing Elliott Baines dived over.
But the try was not given, Owens bringing the play back for an earlier Oxford infringement and Phillips slotted the goal to make it 9-3.
Still, Oxford continued to throw the ball about and they then got a well-deserved try with Barley the scorer. Dummy runners in midfield sucked in the Cambridge defence on the stroke of the break and it created space for Barley who produced the goods with a stunning finish.
Ransom produced the crucial pass and Humberstone nailed the touchline conversion to send Oxford into the break 10-9 to the good.
The Dark Blues started the second half as they finished the first by crossing for another try.
Pozniak was the scorer, the flanker emerging with the ball over the line after an impressive Oxford driving maul had splintered the Cambridge eight.
Humberstone continued an impressive kicking display by adding the extras and all of a sudden, Cambridge were the ones with something to prove.
Light Blues coach James Shanahan was not a happy man in the coaching box and his team did respond with some possession, but crucially they could not break through.
Territorial kicking became the order of the day and while it was a close battle, Oxford then put the game to bed with another fine team score.
Stileman followed wing partner Barley with another exceptional finish – this time in the left corner – and once again Humberstone was inch perfect with the kick.
Full of confidence, Oxford were now turning on the style while Cambridge simply kicked too much ball away. A yellow card for Phillips only made it worse for the Light Blues and Oxford moved further clear as the sublime Ransom laid on Barley for his second in the corner.
It was no surprise Humberstone kicked the conversion once again and at 31-9, Cambridge were never going to come back.
The Light Blues did manage a consolation try through captain and No 8 Koster which scrum-half Chris Bell improved with Phillips off the field, but Oxford were deserving winners and Humberstone capped off a day to remember with a late try of his own which he improved again.
The only downside of a fine afternoon for Oxford was Ransom being taken from the field on a stretcher late on, but he returned for the post-match celebrations which represented good news.
Oxford University: B Ransom (Tonbridge / St Catherine’s); D Barley * (Hampton School / St Edmund Hall), C Kearns * (Glenstal Abbey / Jesus), D Waldouck * (Latymer Upper School / Kellogg, captain), T Stileman * (Cranleigh / St Peter’s); T Humberstone (Peter Symonds School / Hertford), G Tresidder (QEGS, Ashbourne / Harris Manchester); B Parker (RGS, Newcastle / Brasenose), J Henry * (Cambridge House Grammar School / Somerville), J Morris * (King Edward VI, Aston / St Edmund Hall), J Dix (The Perse School / Oriel), G Robson (Bromsgrove / Keble), C Pozniak * (Manchester GS / St Benet’s Hall), S Miller (Harrow / St Edmund Hall), S Kerneis (Whitgift / St Peter’s)
Replacements: R Jones (Ibstock Place School / St Edmund Hall, for S Kerneis 8), A King (Sydney GS / Keble, for JA Henry 12), G Warr (Eton / New, for G Robson 50), N Naude (Rondebosch Boys HS, Cape Town / Keble, for S Miller 77), C Hennessy (Rice College, Ennis / St Catherine’s, for B Parker 77), D McGagh (Rockwell College, Tipperary / Magdalen, for G Tressider 77), L Jackson (King Edward VI, Stratford / Oriel, for D Waldouck 77), H Martin (Marlborough / St Benet’s Hall, for D Barley 77)
Cambridge University: J Gatus (QEGS, Wakefield / Corpus Christi); E Baines (QEGS, Penrith / Peterhouse), H King * (Chipping Campden School / St Catharine’s), J Hennessey * (Kings Wimbledon / Trinity), J Story (Dubai College / Trinity); M Phillips * (Bedford Modern / Emmanuel), C Bell * (St Paul’s / Girton); C MacCallum (Magdalen College School / Downing), M Huppatz * (Sir Joseph Williamson Mathematical School / Downing), W Dean * (Clifton / St John’s), J Eriksen (Chipping Norton School / Girton), A Hunter * (Cranbrook, Sydney / St Edmund’s), S Leonard * (Llandovery College / Emmanuel), S McMahon (Clongowes Wood College / Gonville & Caius), N Koster * (Bishops College / Queens’, captain)
Replacements: O Smart (Merchant Taylors’ School / Downing, for N Koster 54-57), O Smart (Merchant Taylors’ School / Downing, for S McMahon 57), O Gnodde (St John’s / St Edmund’s, for J Gatus 57), S Schusman (Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School / Magdalene, for M Huppatz 65), H Somers (Silverdale School / Hughes Hall, for C MacCallum 65) , J Dixon * (Royal School Armagh / Downing, for W Dean 65), R Beckett (Bradford GS / Peterhouse, for J Eriksen 70, C Saunders (Radley / Selwyn, for C Bell 75), R Triniman (Canford School / Hughes Hall, for J Hennessey 76)
* Denotes Blue
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Man of the match: Ben Ransom (Oxford)
Try: D Barley (2), C Pozniak, T Stileman, T Humberstone
Con: T Humberstone (5)
Pen: T Humberstone
Try: N Koster
Con: C Bell
Pens: M Phillips (3)