Roff farewell spoiled as Light Blues triumph
December 6, 2007
Cambridge retained the Lehmann Brothers trophy after staging a second-half comeback to beat Oxford 22-16 in the 126th Varsity Match.
Cambridge had opened an early 8-0 lead with a try from former Wasps prop Jon Dawson and a penalty from ex-Leicester fly-half Ross Broadfoot before Oxford hit back.
Australian number 10 Craig McMahan landed two drop goals, a penalty and converted Christopher Mahoney's try to hand the Dark Blues a 16-8 lead.
But Cambridge's forward power won through in the end, with replacement flanker Thomas Malaney and number eight James Lumby securing their team's 60th Varsity match triumph.
Oxford were captained by Australia's World Cup-winner Joe Roff, who brought 86 caps worth of experience to the Dark Blue back division.
But Cambridge had ex-pros of their own and both Dawson and Broadfoot made an immediate impact as the Light Blues took control in a lively opening.
Scrum-half Ross Blake created the opening with a darting run from the base of a ruck and an intelligent chip to the corner, where Oxford winger Jonan Boto was tackled into touch.
Oxford's lineout defence crumbled under a powerful Cambridge drive and Dawson, man of the match last year, touched down for the opening try.
Broadfoot then extended the Light Blues' advantage after a slick attack from winger James Wellwood.
Cambridge were bossing the forward exchanges but Oxford were dangerous with ball in hand and took the lead shortly before half-time.
Roff set the platform for Oxford to work their way back into the game, beating four defenders with a strong run before McMahan slotted a simple drop-goal.
Oxford attacked from a lineout and Boto, playing in his fourth Varsity match, evaded three tackles down the right wing and drew two more defenders before slipping the inside ball for Mahoney to score.
McMahan's conversion earned Oxford a hard-fought half-time lead and the former Australia Under-19 international extended that advantage with a penalty shortly after the interval.
Roff had switched to full-back after Mahoney was injured in scoring the Oxford try, while Cambridge were forced into a wholesale reshuffle after Broadfoot was also forced off.
James Greenwood came on at full-back, with Hamish Murray moving to scrum-half and Blake switching to fly-half.
McMahan became only the third player to strike a pair of drop-goals in a Varsity match as Oxford moved two scores clear.
But Cambridge began to re-assert control again through the forwards and replacement flanker Thomas Malaney scored their second try on the back of another powerful drive for the line.
The conversion from replacement loose forward Juliano Fiori brought Cambridge back to within a point - and they went ahead 15 minutes from time with a barnstorming run under the posts from Lumby.
The number eight charged through three tackles after some quick hands and a direct run down the left from Andrew Stevenson had stretched the Oxford defence.
The Dark Blues cranked up the pressure in the closing minutes but, despite Roff's presence, they could not manufacture the opening.