19th January 2018, 17:12 | university
By Daniel Fowler
Oxford (3rd) v Nottingham Trent (7th)
Oxford University moved level on points with second-placed Cambridge with a comfortable 42-18 victory over Nottingham Trent at University Parks.
In the first Midlands 2A game of the new year, Oxford raced into a 14-0 lead before Trent offered a response of their own.
Two successive tries for the hosts put them 22-6 up at half-time before outscoring their opponents four scores to two in the second period.
Captain James Yeomans opened the scoring for Oxford inside the first ten minutes before second-rower Sam Pace doubled his side's advantage.
Trent threatened to halve the deficit but Oxford stood firm with some great defence and they soon reaped the reward at the other end of the pitch.
Alex Pentecost notched the third try of the game and Jeremy Ayling furthered Oxford's lead to three scores thanks to his first conversion.
Good win for the maroons, lots of fresh faces putting big shifts in. Cheers to @NTURugbyLeague good luck for the rest of the year lads— Oxford Uni RL Club (@OURLFC) January 17, 2018
Trent got on the scoresheet soon after but Oxford had the final say as tries from Tristan Leauveaux and Harry Martin left the hosts with a comfortable advantage.
Will Milnthorpe got the ball rolling in the second half with a four-pointer before Trent offered a quick reply as they registered a try of their own to cut the Blues' lead to 16 points.
Conceding that second try sparked Oxford into life and following three tries on the bounce courtesy of Leauveaux, Sam Scott and Ben Adams, the game was over as a contest and the win was sealed.
The visitors did post a consolation try to take back to Nottingham but that didn't matter much to Oxford, who have their sights set on challenging Warwick for top spot.
After the game, Oxford captain Yeomans told Dan Fowler: "I think we played very well.
"In attack, we hit our lines hard and ran our moves well. In defence, when we were camped on our own line, we defended very well and managed to stop them getting over quite a few times.
"Looking on to our game against Cambridge, which is a big one for us, we've put a marker down and we'll look to play well against them and try for a similar score.
The early 14-0 lead was vital for Oxford as they put Trent behind the 8-ball from the off, while also calming a few debutants in the hosts' ranks.
"(The lead) was particularly good as we were playing a few inexperienced players so it was good to settle the nerves," said Yeomans.
"They've played a lot of rugby union but not much Rugby League so it was good to get them started and get a good run into the game and it allowed us to continue as we did.
"Union players have good knowledge and a basic skillset so they're great to try and get over to play Rugby League as they have a head start on those who haven't played either code."
Yeomans admitted the performance wasn’t perfect by any means, with indiscipline causing a few problems during the 80 minutes.
"We're going to work on our discipline in the week, a lot of the penalties we conceded were for offside," he added.
"We also want to clean up our attacking lines and make sure the players know the moves and know what is going on."
With the victory, Oxford have moved closer to table-toppers Warwick and Yeomans is confident his side has what it takes to challenge the league leaders for promotion.
"We've played Warwick but we'll keep piling on the pressure and not dropping any points," he said.
"Warwick will have to do the same because we'll be breathing down their necks for the remainder of the season."