Pythons win Varsity in style under the Grange Road lights

Late Sunday afternoon, the floodlights at Grange Road rugby ground were turned on in preparation for a more unusual sport: this year’s Varsity Bowl, the eagerly anticipated American football game between the Cambridge Pythons and the Oxford Lancers. The spectacle attracted a large crowd and many more watched the online stream and listened over the radio.

Oxford won the toss and kicked off to Cambridge. The Pythons’ offence started in their own half and managed a first down before punting the ball away. The ensuing Lancers’ drive was a three-and-out, forcing a punt giving Cambridge good field position.

The Pythons made sure this opportunity was not wasted and a mix of plays got them down to the Oxford 33, before a minor setback of a fumbled snap, recovered by QB Joe Yarwood. The next play was more successful, with Yarwood making a nice throw to Joe Moore who ran the ball in for a Cambridge 41-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful with the same combination.

The next Oxford drive started well, with an 18 yard completion, but the Pythons stepped up after that with no more first downs on this drive and a sack by linebacker Darren Harvey. After Oxford punted the ball away, the Cambridge offence started another series from their own six yard line, this one dominated by the run. After pounding the ball for four plays, James Digby got the ball on another running play, and took it to the house for a 70-yard score. Yarwood and Moore’s connection continued on the two-point conversion, making the score 16-0.

James Digby breaks away for a touchdown

James Digby breaks away for a touchdown

The next few offensive series for both teams were scrappy. Oxford had two one-play drives end in interceptions to Tom Carr and Harry Richer, and penalties and sacks ruined drives for both teams. In the last Cambridge possession of the half, the punt was partially blocked giving Oxford good field position with time ticking down. They managed to get a 25 yard completion and a roughing the passer penalty gave them another 15 yards, but four incomplete passes saw out the first half.

Again, the defences dominated to start the second half, apart from one long Cambridge drive that ran out of steam on the Oxford 18 yard line. A succession of short drives, with Cambridge getting several sacks, took the game into the final quarter.

In the fourth, Oxford got another chance when Cambridge fumbled the Lancers punt, and then fumbled again on an interception. This drive was also disjointed: the second play being a completion that was fumbled and recovered by Ned Bransden. The Pythons then ran out the clock by running the ball, leaving the final score 16-0 to the Pythons.

As well as the game, there were half-time cheerleader performances and a pie competition. These added the to the American twist of the traditional, very English, rivalry.

The Pythons are still recruiting for positions both on and off the field for the rest of the year.