2007 – 2008

Captain: Jonty Strachan, Vice Captain: Luke Jones, Secretary: Patrick Wills

Rugby Football Report

Given that the team last year was mainly made up of finalists, Queen’s was hoping for a strong fresher intake to bolster a depleted squad. Fortunately a good crop of energetic first years arrived in October, eager to get their first taste of college rugby.

The season started with a promising victory over Oriel in a pre-season friendly. Despite an apparent early season lack of fitness, Queen’s ran out 47-0 winners, with Ed Boyes playing in his first game for Queen’s making an instant impact by scoring an impressive hat trick.

On the back of this confident start, the team embarked upon its season in division three, with promotion into the second division as its goal. It could not have got off to a better start, with a 64-5 win over New College. Simon Dewsbury, playing in his fourth and final season for the College, was imposing in the centre and ran in three tries, whilst another fresher, Alex Rowe, scored two tries in the first half, making his early mark on college rugby. The second game in this division was against Pembroke, and, with personal rivalries apparent between the two teams, this always promised to be a tough fixture. The team was solid in defence, and the only points conceded were a penalty of five points for not having a fully-trained front row. The midfield was once again impressive, with Dewsbury grabbing a brace, and Alex Hudson putting in some abrasive defensive work, playing on after breaking his nose. Queen’s then played St Anne’s and St John’s, a combined team, bizarrely made up of two of the largest colleges in the University. Unsurprisingly, they came with a thirty-man squad. Despite their strength in numbers, Queen’s put in another great performance and came out 33-12 victors. Patrick Wills, the secretary of the club and next year’s vice-captain, continued his impressive run of form and scored two tries, and Harry Taylor put in a man-of-the-match performance at fullback, showing his competent reading of the game, and his flair for counter-attack. Queen’s found perhaps their toughest test against a well-organised and efficient University College team. Knowing that a victory would secure promotion to the second division, the team was determined to put in another great performance and continue its unbeaten run. In what was a tense encounter, the forwards, led by the talismanic Luke Jones, put in a fantastic effort and the backs finished off some great tries with hard-earned balls from the forwards. Wills added two more tries to his season tally and versatile fresher, James Thompson, scored on debut with a jinking run from twenty metres out. With promotion thus secured, the team had a dead rubber match against Lincoln. The game was played in torrential rain and Queen’s were a man down for the whole eighty minutes. Despite this self-imposed handicap, the team found itself in front after three quarters of the game, Dave Ingall scoring all the points, including running fifty metres to score a try and deftly slotting two penalties. Unfortunately, in the dying minutes a late try was conceded and Queen’s lost 17-11. Although the result had no impact on the team’s promotion hopes, it was disappointing to end the unbeaten run.

The first game in the second division saw Queen’s lose a very winnable game to Worcester. Once again, Queen’s was a man down. Despite a spirited comeback in the second half, with great tries from Kieran O’Donnell, the speed merchant on the wing, and Brett Marshall, next year’s captain, whose support running, the defining mark of his season, earned him a try, Queen’s still lost 24-12. The pack put in another industrious performance and Richard Lewin, the most experienced man in the team, worked tirelessly for the whole game, along with Tom Nash, who was strong as ever in both defence and attack. The team did however return to winning ways in the second game in this new division, beating Wadham 11-5 in what was another strong pack effort, with Matt Pope and Tom Banyard once again putting in great performances. Unfortunately, this was to be the last match in the second division as heavy rains made many of the pitches in Oxford unplayable. It was felt that the toughest games had already been played. As a result, Queen’s missed its second promotion of the season by a single point.

Despite the weather two Cuppers games were played. The game against Oriel, now much improved from the side beaten in the pre-season warm-up match, was a fierce battle in which Queen’s defended perfectly, gaining a victory 16-3, with both Wills and Ingall grabbing a brace. The second round saw Queen’s drawn against St Peter’s, giants of college rugby. In the first half St Peter’s, strengthened by several blues were camped on our tryline, but some fantastic defence by the whole team prevented their scoring in the first half. Special mention must go to Nash, Jones, Lewin and Banyard who were tireless and impenetrable in defence. In the second half the game opened up a bit more, and those supporters who had endured the monotony of the first half were rewarded by a forty-seven point second half, which saw St Peter’s come out 27-20 victors. It was however a great performance from Queen’s.

This year Queen’s decided to enter a team in Doxbridge – an annual tournament that takes place in Dublin and is open to all college teams from Oxford, Cambridge and Durham. The format was ten-a-side which favoured Queen’s physical, yet mobile, side. The first day saw Queen’s get through the group stage with impressive wins over some Durham colleges, beating Van Mildert and Stephenson convincingly, and then winning a close game against St John’s. After a day off which involved trips to the Guinness factory, an essential part of any tour to Dublin, and to Croke Park, the final day started with a victory over Josephine Butler, another Durham college, and then a closely-fought draw against an improved St John’s side. This brought Queen’s to the final to meet John Snow, again from Durham, the reigning champions who had not lost a game at Doxbridge for three years. The stage was set for Queen’s to make history. After a stunning eighty metre try by Kieran O’Donnell, Queen’s found itself 7-0 up at half time. As expected, John Snow fought back and scored two tries in the second half. At 7-10 down with just about a minute to go defeat looked certain but the inspirational Alex Hudson sparked a moment of genius. Fielding a long kick from the John Snow fly half, he threw the ball in to himself and, completely isolated, proceeded to beat about four men, then offloaded deftly to Ed Boyes, who stepped one, drew one and passed to Strachan who only had to catch the ball and fall over the line. This dramatic ending secured victory and Queen’s left Dublin Doxbridge champions.

This capped off what has been a great season. The team has worked hard, and gelled as a unit. It is hoped that the team can continue in a similar vein next year and will go on to play in the first division where a team of this calibre belongs.