Oxford started well. Solid ruckwork from Jack 'Inspector' Valmadre and strong body positioning from Prof Matt McGilvray provided Oxford with more than their fair share of the footy. Phill ‘Hammer’ Hamer and James ‘MD’ Kennedy went searching for targets in the forward line, and were not disappointed, but it took a while for this dominance to be reflected on the scoreboard. Usual suspect Dylan Wise opened the scoring with a solid mark and goal from out in front. Lightning struck twice for Dylan, and a few minutes later he sent through his second.
This paid dividends as Bartlett found club stalwart Grey Johnston, who in turn picked out Seb 'Flounder' Wylie, who led strongly in the forward line all day. With the title of “Best Forward in the Osney Thermofluids Lab” up for grabs, Dylan and Flounder got the goal kicking rivalry underway, making Cambridge suffer on the scoreboard in the process. Flounder walked back and got his first, followed by his second from the pocket.
Cambridge struck back just before the end of the quarter and bagged a fine goal from 40m out to leave the scoreboard reading: Oxford 25 - Cambridge 6.
The message at quarter time from Coach Riggas (narrowly pipped by Simon Goodwin as Melbourne Coach for 2017) was simple: keep going hard and keep scoring goals. This was the quarter in which to break the Cambridge spirits and establish a stranglehold on the match.
Jesus, anything but meek and mild, was causing carnage at the back. Oliver Bartlett came off after a collision between the pair, allowing Dustin Stuart to enter the fray, running round the backline like a bull in a china shop. Not content with stopping there, Jesus then flew into a tackle with the Cambridge full forward, but was unfortunate to have it called high, late and off the ball. Sometimes the decisions don't go your way, and Cambridge put it through for a major. Still, it was a long time before the Cambridge forward line went anywhere near him.
Cambridge struck back with a behind and a goal created by their elusively quick number 16 in the midfield. The tabs, with many GAA players as ever, used quick handballs and ran the footy to create space. This match wasn't going to be a walk in the park, despite how it may seem from this (admittedly slightly biased) account.
Toby Lees, playing in his first Varsity (and possibly last, unless we get permission from the Pope for him to return next year) picked up a mark in the forward line from another Hamer bullet, but pushed it slightly wide for a behind. At the halftime orange break, Oxford led 6.2.38 - 3.1.19.
Cambridge came out fighting in the third quarter, playing rough in an attempt to provoke a reaction from Oxford. A notably bizarre incident involved Ell Neame being taken hostage in a headlock. Matt McGilvray saw his opportunity to break his "jersey-punch duck", and made his outrage known.
James Kennedy fired back with a monster goal that had the crowd discussing whether 9 point super goals should be introduced to the Varsity derby. It was helped on its way by some selfless shepherding from Flounder, Ben 'Pigeon' Hunn, and Dan (and a Cambridge defender who chose to go for the Oxford forwards rather than stop the bouncing ball from rolling through). Had Pigeon known what would happen in the next quarter, he probably would have poked it through himself.
At the end of the quarter, the Big Cat online brand was in tatters, and Oxford were up 9.5.59 - 3.2.20, with one hand on the trophy.
Flounder and Grey had rotated excellently all day, and Flounder Wylie grabbed his 3rd of the day with a howitzer from the centre square to spark pandemonium in the crowds.