Fitzwilliam’s men’s rugby team remain on course for the League and Cup double after reaching the Cuppers final for the first time in 15 years*.
Fitz pair up with Sidney Sussex for college competitions, but make up the majority of the team which earlier this term won Division One for the first time since 1982. Cuppers success for the first time since the late 1960s is now the next goal.
An 18-17 win over St John’s at Grange Road on Thursday night set up a Saturday 25 April final with Downing, who beat Gonville and Caius 18-5 in the second semi-final.
Fitzwilliam’s success was built on strong defence in a brutal to-and-fro contest. A first-half penalty from Toby Hiram and an unconverted try from back row Anthony Baston saw Fitzwilliam trail 10-8 at half-time.
A try from prop Tom Ryan saw Fitzwilliam lead 13-10 early in the second half.
Full-back Pete Atkin was sin-binned for a ruck offence and Johns applied more pressure, claiming an interception and a try to make it 17-13.
Fitzwilliam responded by keeping the ball through the phases, before substitute Ted Hicks, a Sidney student, crossed in the corner to take a one-point lead.
Fitzwilliam then withstood 10 minutes of pressure from Johns before they could celebrate an 18-17 victory and reaching a first Cuppers final since 2005, when St John's won*.
Dick Tyler (Law 1978) was in the team beaten in the 1979 final and was at Grange Road on Thursday night. He is the chairman of Cambridge University Rugby Football Union.
“I’m thrilled,” Dick said.
“I’ve watched the team several times this season, and I’ve been hugely impressed by the way they’ve played and come on as a team over the course of the season.
“I had very high hopes for them having a good run in Cuppers. The form in the league doesn’t necessarily translate to success in Cuppers, because Blues and other representative players come in, but it’s been great.
“The thing that has struck me is that they’ve been remarkably consistent throughout the season and played really well as a team. There are no obvious weaknesses.
“I think Will Lockhart has done a fabulous job as captain, as well as being a very good player himself.”
Dick, a three-time University Blue who also scored a try for the University against New Zealand, anticipates a close contest for the trophy.
He added: “I watched the second semi-final which Downing won, and I’ve seen Fitz play Downing twice in the league this season. They’re a good side, won it last year, have got a number of Blues and LX Club players. I think the final will be a very good contest.”
As well as Dick, Fitzwilliam’s 1979 team featured Eddie Butler (MML 1976), who went on to play for Wales and the British and Irish Lions. Andrew McGahey (Land Economy 1978) and Steve Gill (Georgraphy 1978) also played, and later earned Blues in their University careers.
Dick added: “We were bitterly disappointed to lose the final. We were outplayed on the day by St Catharine’s.
“There’s a huge number of people who have had extraordinary rugby careers at Cambridge and never won a Cuppers final. Just because you’ve one or two stars, it doesn’t necessarily translate to success in Cuppers.”
Dick will hope the current team can go one better than his side did.
Fitzwilliam team v St John's (Thursday 12 March): Pete Atkin, Paul Storrs (Sidney), Cavan Farrow, James Mahon, George Hayes, Billy Thomas-Connolly, Lawrence Tan; Danny Collins, Will Lockhart, Tom Ryan, Alex Corsham (Sidney), Eddie Milton Seall, Eddie Revell, Toby Hiram, Anthony Baston. Replacements: Tom Hale, Adam Bradley, Ted Hicks (Sidney), Ben Hillier, Omar Hatteea, Caolan McConnaughie, James Scudamore.
Back row (left to right): Tom Hale, Ben Hillier, James Mahon, Cavan Farrow, Paul Storrs (Sidney), Pete Atkin, Caolan McConnaughie, James Scudamore.
Middle row: Alex Hill, Alex Corsham (Sidney), Tom Ryan, Ted Hicks (Sidney), Anthony Baston, Billy Thomas-Connolly, Jay Cranston, Kelvin Leung (Sidney).
Front: Eddie Milton Seall, Toby Hiram, William Lockhart (captain), Ben Jackson (Sidney), George Hayes (vice-captain), Lawrence Tan.
*This article was amended on Monday 16 March, following information from an alumnus that Fitzwilliam reached the 2005 final. Thank you for pointing out the mistake. We are pleased to make this correction.