Rugby League Varsity Match

The Rugby League Varsity Match is an annual rugby league match between Cambridge University and Oxford University. It is currently played at the Honourable Artillery Company in London, England, usually in the first week of March.

The first Oxford versus Cambridge University match took place in 1981. The varsity match has discretionary full blue status. The two teams play for the KJ Lee Trophy which was donated by the father of a former Oxford player.

The Varsity Match was one of only three varsity events to be televised and was shown live on Sky Sports between 2004 and 2011. The fixture has been sponsored by Pcubed since 1998.



The first university rugby league game was between Leeds and Liverpool in 1968. A year later the Universities and Colleges Rugby League was formed after student pioneers fought hard to get the sport recognised in higher education.

A chance conversation between three Oxford students on a train to Wales to see the touring Australians defeat Wales sowed the seed of rugby league at Oxford, less than two years' later the first-ever Oxford club side, Oxford Sharks, an even mix of students and locals, took to a rented council pitch to play Peckham.

By the end of the 1976 season, they had won university recognition and were able to rename themselves Oxford University Rugby League Club, only the second-ever student team in the south of England.

Cambridge University Amateur Rugby League Football Club was formed in November 1980 by Dick McConnel, a former New Zealand Student International. Their first game took place on 2 December 1980 against Reading University which they lost 40–2. McConnell subsequently became a senior academic at St Johns College, Cambridge, and remains the club’s Senior Treasurer.

Early Years

The first Varsity match took place on Sunday 26 April 1981 at Craven Cottage, Oxford winning 16–9 in front of a crowd of over 800. The Oxford team was captained by Tim Muff and club President was Keith Lawson. The well known professional referee Mick Naughton took charge. The game was played two weeks later than originally scheduled due to a flooded pitch. This caused a problem in the Oxford camp as two regulars were forced to return to their native USA before the match. Two players, Pat Wall and Joe Horsley consequently made their rugby league debut in the rearranged fixture.

The first full rugby union Blue to play in the fixture was Cambridge scrum half Simon Roberts, who played under the name "Robert Simons" in the 1983 fixture at Maidstone. The first open double Blue was Oxford's John Risman, son of Bev Risman.

The 1980s saw an even see-saw of results between the two clubs, as well as an initial home at Headingley Stadium in Leeds.

1990s - Cambridge Domination

Despite Oxford victories in 1990 and 1991, and the only draw in the series - in 1994, when Cambridge came back with two late tries to level in the last minute – the 1990s was a mainly a decade of Cambridge dominance. Much of this revolved around Ady Spencer, a double rugby union and rugby league blue who subsequently played professional rugby league for the London Broncos. Spencer became the focus of national controversy when he was banned by the Rugby Football Union in 1994 for his appearance in the 1994 Rugby Union Varsity match having already played Rugby League at a professional level (albeit unpaid) with the London Crusaders. This was the subject of an Early-Day Motion in the UK Parliament at Westminster .[1]

The mud-ruined 1995 'Farsity' Match ended with a 16-8 Cambridge victory after 60 minutes play — and was rewarded with a front-page photograph in The Times.[citation needed] In 1998 Pcubed became the title sponsor of the "Pcubed Varsity Match" and have been the title sponsor ever since – possibly the longest running commercial title sponsorship in Rugby League.

By the turn of the millennium, Cambridge led the series 12-6, with a solitary draw.

Early 2000s and Sky Sports Involvement

The first-ever Old Boys Varsity was held before the 2002 game at Richmond, which Cambridge narrowly won.[citation needed] Around this time, the fixture began to receive more widespread media coverage, and in 2004, for the first time, was broadcast live on Sky Sports. The live broadcasting of the fixture, which continued until 2011, resulted in a move to the Twickenham Stoop.

The 17–16 winning margin for Cambridge in the 2005 Varsity Match was the closest in the events history, Cambridge coming back from 16–0 with 25 minutes left, half-back Alex Drysdale scoring two tries, setting up the third and slotting over a drop goal with less than ten minutes to go to secure victory for the Light Blues.

In 2006, Cambridge won 44–0. This was the first ever nilling in the history of the match, and resulted in widespread changes in the rugby league setup at Oxford. One of the most obvious was the club’s ability to award 13 full blues per years, at the discretion of the club’s captain. Soon after, Oxford began to regularly put out a second team in the BUCS competition. These two factors sowed the seed of Oxford domination for years to come.

Recent History - Oxford Domination

Oxford have won every match in the fixture since 2007, with the exception of 2009 (known as 'the Smibert blip'). This unprecedented run of success culminated in six consecutive victories between 2010 and 2015.

Notable fixtures during this period were 2009, which represented the first year a reserve-grade Varsity match was played at St Mary's University, Twickenham; this was won by Oxford's 2nd XIII (the 'Maroons'). In the Varsity match itself, however, Cambridge extended their overall lead in the series with a 20–4 victory.[2] This remains Cambridge’s last victory in the series.

2010 was the 30 year anniversary of the fixture and was marked with a pulsating clash in which Cambridge led 16–0 before Oxford scored 26 unanswered points and ultimately led 26–22 going into the last five minutes of the game. A try with the last play ensured a 32–22 victory.[3]

2011 began a series of heavy victories for Oxford; 60-16. This was followed by 48-0, 32-4, 40-0, 42-0, and then in 2016 a record scoreline of 70-0. Despite the dark blue’s domination, and Sky Sports no longer broadcasting the game live, relocation to the Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London, has seen the event go from strength-to-strength with continued sponsorship by PCubed and growing interest.

Past winners

1981Oxford 16-9Craven Cottage, London
1982Cambridge 30-8Crystal Palace, London
1983Cambridge 25-8Maidstone, Kent
1984Oxford 18-14Craven Cottage, London
1985Oxford 8-6Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1986Cambridge 32-14Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1987Cambridge 36-5Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1988Cambridge 18-8Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1989Oxford 12-9Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1990Cambridge 20-15Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1991Oxford 24-4Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1992Oxford 32-23Headingley Stadium, Leeds
1993Cambridge 50-18Crystal Palace, London
1994Draw22-22Old Deer Park, London
1995Cambridge 16-8Old Deer Park, London
1996Cambridge 48-18Old Deer Park, London
1997Cambridge 26-22Richmond Athletic Ground, London
1998Cambridge 24-10Richmond Athletic Ground, London
1999Cambridge 14-10Richmond Athletic Ground, London

2000Oxford 35-17Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2001Oxford 22-16Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2002Cambridge 22-10Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2003Oxford 25-13Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2004Oxford 29-16Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2005Cambridge 17-16Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2006Cambridge 44-0Twickenham Stoop, London
2007Oxford 20-14Twickenham Stoop, London
2008Oxford 38-10Twickenham Stoop, London
2009Cambridge 20-4Twickenham Stoop, London
2010Oxford 32-22Twickenham Stoop, London
2011Oxford 60-16Twickenham Stoop, London
2012Oxford 48-0Richmond Athletic Ground, London
2013Oxford 32-4Honourable Artillery Company Ground, London
2014Oxford 40-0Honourable Artillery Company Ground, London
2015Oxford 42-0Honourable Artillery Company Ground, London
2016Oxford 70-0Honourable Artillery Company Ground, London

By total wins

Total matches Cambridge victories Oxford victories Draws
36 16 19 1


Most points scored in a Varsity Match:

Oxford: 70 (2016), Cambridge: 50 (1993)

Fewest points conceded in a Varsity Match:

Oxford: 0 (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), Cambridge: 0 (2006)

Biggest winning margin in a Varsity Match:

Oxford: 70 (2016), Cambridge: 44 (2006)

See also


    External links

    This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/14/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.