Weak Blues muscled out

first_imgThe Blues had a very mixed week, with a convincing 25-7 win over Japan’s Kanto Gakuin University on Satuday followed by a weak performance by an inexperienced team against Bohemians of University of Limerick, Eire in a 26-5 defeat on Wednesday.The team have set their stall out for this season to play adventurous rugby, moving the ball wide at pace early on. Against Kanto Gakuin, the sheer speed of passing along the line was enough to overcome the opposition’s defence and only poor ball handling prevented the Blues from gaining an even larger victory. Against the harder-hitting Limerick side, however, the Blues were taught a lesson in hard, tight rugby, the creativity of the backline of little use with a shortage of quality ball and ineffective recycling. The game against Kanto Gakuin, who beat Cambridge 21-14 in Tokyo during the summer, was never a thriller. Initially, the teams were reasonably matched, and Kanto Gakuin actually enjoyed the best of the early opportunities. However, Oxford went ahead with a fast flowing move which is becoming the team’s signature play, Huw Jones getting over after some great team work created an overlap. The game continued in this style and every time the Blues had the ball, they tried to outwit the tourists with their speed and agility, so it came as no surprise that Oxford went in 15-0 up at half time with another rapid move. Ross Lavery broke through the Kanto Gakuin line and Adam Harris fnished off the move. Jon Fennell continued his good day with the boot, adding the conversion to his earlier penalty.The second half showed Oxford’s superior fitness and the forwards started to dominate in the scrum. Winger Jonan Boto broke through for a try and Fennell kicked another five points. However Kanto Gakuin did put up some resistance and a period of strong play from them, with their forwards turning the tables, lead to number 8 Tosa putting the ball under the posts for the final points of the game.A very different team played against semi-professional Limerick, with only four Blues named in the starting line up due to the game against Leicester Tigers three days later. It definitely showed in a performance which started as a closely fought game but turned into a second half nightmare. The same tactics were on display but the visitors were able to repulse the fast attacks the pacey Oxford backline tried to put together. Limerick’s Fergal Lawlor scored three penalties in the first half, but prop Sean Brophy reduced the deficit after Ali James went close. Bohemians did have a try disallowed due to an unnecessary forward pass which let Oxford off the hook and left the match very much alive at half time with the score at 9-5.The second half was anything but close. The Blues lost any momentum they had going into the break and appeared lacklustre. The lineouts were overcomplicated and Oxford put themselves in danger on many occasions by losing their own throws. Limerick were smashing in the scrum and James O’Neil went over after the home team were driven back over their line. With the Blues forced to commit in huge numbers to rucks, Limerick were able to create large overlaps of which they took full advantage. There were a few good breaks but these petered out as the Blues’ recycling let them down. Coach Steve Hill summed up the performance. “We didn’t perform as well as we should have done.”Saturday’s match showed once again  that the Blues have real potential this year to play some devestating and effective rugby. However, Wednesday’s game showed that it could all come to nothing if the Blues do not get their basics right. An admittedly inexperienced Blues side struggled with scrummaging, line-outs and basic handling. These aspects of their game will have to improve. ARCHIVE: 1st week MT 2005last_img read more