The Varsity Match is always a nerve-racking experience for the players and fans, but also for the coaches.
Cambridge coach Jack Baird admitted his nerves were “through the roof” as his side were staring defeat in the face with less than five minutes to play at Twickenham.
But then a moment of magic from centre Coreen Grant conjured up the match-winning try and allowed Baird to bag his fifth win in six Varsity Matches.
“We worked incredibly hard in the 11 weeks up to this point and we’d prepared to go for the full 80 minutes, so I never through the game was lost. But my nerves were through the roof,” said Baird.
“We made a tactical change based on performance and morale and that made a big difference in the end. We saw from last year that Oxford could have won it with the last play of the game, so we kept it going, had belief and our conditioning was good.
“I wasn’t surprised that Oxford were much stronger than when we met them at Grange Road earlier in the term. They made six or seven changes and we knew they would come out strong and they were excellent in the first 30 minutes and they could have won it in the end.”
The game looked to be heading for a Dark Blues victory when Jessica Abele’s 17th minute try still held sway over Hannah Vandersluis’s penalty as the game reached 75 minutes. Then Cambridge won the put-in at a scrum on the Oxford 10 metres line and Grant took centre stage.
“Coreen stepped up and changed position with two minutes to go and she won it for us. She has been outstanding for us both on and off the field this season. Both she and Bluebell Nicholls, our other centre, have got bright futures in the game,” added Baird.
“Nerves, a greasy ball and pressure meant neither team managed to get out of second or third gear. The occasion got to them and neither side managed the pressure very well because of the conditions.”