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Merciless Keble martyr Saints

first_imgKeble 71 – 17 St. Anne’s/St. John’s Keble, staking their claim to retain the Cuppers title, thoroughly outplayed St. Anne’s/St. John’s in a onesided quarter final clash. They showcased what they are capable of, and proved that they remain the team to beat this year. The two teams last met in 2005, in the depths of Division Three at the beginning of Keble’s epic march to the summit of college rugby. Then, as now, the huge margin of Keble’s victory reflected a corresponding gulf in training and fitness. The Saints arrived in the quarterfinals having eked out the narrowest of victories against Worcester, their sixth straight win this season, during which they earned the Division Three title. Keble, meanwhile, were rattled by Magdalen’s spirited challenge, clawing back the lead only towards the end of a tense and brutal encounter. However, if the League and Cuppers champions know anything it is how to win, their unbeaten record stretching back more than a year. From the match’s beginning, Keble were ruthless in executing their game plan, pinning the Saints back with accurate kicks and using their well-drilled pack. Driving mauls from the line-out produced four tries in the first half alone. The experienced Brendan McKerchar at the base of the scrum and a raft of other University players marshalled the disciplined home side to make victory quickly seem inevitable. The Saints looked intimidated by their renowned opponents, and suffered from poor decision-making when in possession, allowing the Keble backs to test the defences out wide and run in tries of their own. Frustration led to a caution for Saints enforcer Ed Slack, who lashed out at his opposite number having made a fearsome covering tackle. Despite pace in the front row and throughout the pack, making them competitive at the breakdown, Saints looked bereft of answers and by half-time the match looked as if it might provide little more than kicking practice for the Keble fly-half. However, the underdogs emerged from the break looking much less cowed, with flanker George Nava leading a series of ferocious tackles to earn turnover ball. Centre Dan Simon displayed trademark panache to take advantage of one of these and sprinted over the Keble try-line, which had never before looked at all threatened. Mildly perturbed, Keble did not relax the pressure and maintained a stranglehold on the set pieces, reducing the Saints to feeding from scraps. Their glut of possession was well-used by strong runners who maintained a steady stream of tries throughout the second half. Playing for pride, the Saints were unbowed and snatched a second try through Matt Jones’ interception. While the result was beyond doubt, there was still a large and partisan crowd to impress. The match remained competitive to the last, both sides having to defend their own lines and doing so with intensity. The uniformly powerful Keble forwards drove hard at the fringes of rucks, while the Saints used their own battering rams in the shape of Stuart Hindle and Oli Adams to attempt a break-through. Keble’s technical superiority and clinical training eventually won them this contest and allowed them to open up an unassailable lead. However, the plucky Saints were able to get the last word, stringing together a genuinely impressive run of plays to put scrum-half Matt Evans-Young over in the corner. Keble laid down a marker of their superiority in this match, and their semi-final opponents will have to find a way to contain their heavy physical firepower. It is testament to their discipline and refusal to relax while on top that not since November 2006 has a side put more than 17 points on them in a league match. The Saints meanwhile should not be dispirited by defeat from the Huw Davies and Peter Woodlast_img read more