Sunday will see the culmination of three months hard work for the players and coaching staff of Oxford Cavaliers and Somerset Vikings as they go head-to-head in the Rugby League Conference West of England Grand Final.
The game kicks off at 14:30, and will be played at Oxford Rugby Club, North Hinksey. Referee Melvin Bettridge will oversee Sunday’s action.
The Cavaliers, who qualified for the season finale with a 56-28 victory over Gloucestershire Warriors last time out, finished top of the league on points difference from Somerset. And they know that the current champions will provide a stern test in what is set to be a gripping game of rugby.
The two sides have met twice already this season and the Vikings have come out on top on both occasions, winning narrowly home and away. They also boast some of the competition’s most exciting players, the Vikings’ Craig Williams having grabbed seven tries already this season, and the Cavaliers’ Jack Briggs notching a staggering 18 to top the try scoring charts. Oxford’s Shane Turner and Somerset’s Dan Hinton lead the goal kicking stats with 27 and 29 respectively. Look out too for the Vikings’ Fatu Lahu, who crossed the try line four times in his side’s semi final victory over Bristol last weekend.
Despite the Vikings winning last year’s showpiece to be crowned champions, Sunday will be the Cavaliers’ first final in over a decade, and marks a genuine resurgence for the club who in the early years of the Rugby League Summer Conference dominated the competition.
In early June however there were question marks over the Cavaliers’ title credentials, with the defeat at home to the Vikings preceded by a 30-28 loss at Bristol. “We have done it tough at times this year”, says Chairman John Connaughton. “So to be in the Grand Final is a huge credit to both the guys that have pulled on a Cavaliers shirt this season, and the strides that we’ve made off the field to promote Rugby League in Oxford”.
“To play in and win finals is what the club set out to achieve at the beginning of the year, and we’ve worked hard toward that goal. Now it’s all on one game, and the way we start will be important. Somerset are a champion team, and we will need to be at our very best come Sunday.”
Cavaliers will again be without injured skipper Connaughton and goal-kicking stand off, Shane Turner who each have a broken hand. And with Irish loose-forward Ruairi Lynch now joining them on the sidelines having suffered a broken clavicle in Oxford’s win over Gloucestershire, several of Oxford’s first team players will miss the game. They can though look to Centre, Briggs, full back Mario Da Silva, and Scrum Half Tom Waterfield to get them around the field, and with Conner McCaffrey likely to return to a strong pack, are confident they will have what it takes to secure an historic victory.
Oxford Cavaliers (from): M Da Silva, J Da Silva, M Fiander, J Briggs, T James, A White, T Waterfield, J Smith, C Stables, C McCaffrey, C Boyce, B Llewellyn, J Morris, B Sydenham, C Skelton, M Collings, S Hannah