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2023 Freshers’ Touch Rugby Festival

Six college rugby teams met in friendly competition this weekend, Saturday, 7th October, at the 2023 Freshers’ Touch Rugby Festival. Magdalen College’s second team narrowly edged out the returning Cuppers champions, St Catherine’s College, for the first place spot.

The Freshers’ Festival is an annual inter-college Touch Rugby competition, which precedes the regular contact season. The event is an opportunity to introduce new and prospective players to returning members of college rugby teams. Touch Rugby is a non-contact, fast-paced version of rugby. The format of the competition was a round robin: the winner was determined by match results, then try difference, then total tries. Magdalen College won a clean victory, going undefeated on the day.

The event was organised by the Oxford University Touch Rugby Club. The club’s president, Aryemis Brown, said the event’s priorities were “sportsmanship, safety, competition and fun.” And so it went!

St Catherine’s College fielded two full teams with substitutes to spare. They relied on speed and quick ball movement to progress down the pitch. Their first team amassed 12 tries, while their second team won two games and drew three.

Queen’s College brought a mixed side and played an intelligent game. Their defensive policies employed strong wingers, whilst their attacking platform relied on a speedy two-person platform in the middle. They caught their defensive opposition lacking many-a-time, taking advantage of off-side players to score a try.

Even so, Keble College took down Queen’s in 3-0 game. Keble had some speedy players, with many breakaways tries. However, their endurance is to credit, playing many back-to-back games on the day. Still, they managed a stunning pace at every interval, scoring the third most tries across the event.

Magdalen College carried the day’s victory. Collectively, their two teams scored 27 tries. In their final match with St Catherine’s, they secured a two try lead in the second half. Fortuitously, the final match of the round robin turned into a de facto gold medal match, pitting the day’s two top competitors against one another. Simply put, Magdalen played good Touch and employed their impressive athleticism. Well done to their captain, Toby Olorenshaw, for their programme’s growth since last year’s Cuppers.

This day would not be possible without the incredible support of many people. Thank you, to Simon Brown, for a strong partnership between OURFC and OUTRC; to Aymeric Vié, our head referee; to Alice Epps and Gus McMahon, our first aiders and referees; and to Ava McCarthy Kerrigan, our tournament control.

Saturday’s sunny weather offered a good taste of what is to come for Cuppers this summer. We look forward to welcoming the colleges back for the mixed tournament in Trinity. Shall St Catherine’s retain their title? Is this the beginning of Magdalen’s dominance? Surely not if Queen’s or Keble have anything to say about it. Until then, best of luck in your contact rugby seasons!

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