UP-AND-COMING Scottish centre Coreen Grant admits she was “overwhelmed” after she scored a stunning try and was named the player-of-the-match as Cambridge University won the women’s Varsity Match at Twickenham yesterday in dramatic fashion.
The 21-year-old from Edinburgh had played at the famous home of English rugby before for Durham University, losing that BUCS final to Exeter University earlier in 2019. However, she made it second time lucky here with this wonder try winning the game for Cambridge versus Oxford University in the 77th minute of the 33rd playing of the women’s Varsity Match.
It means that she has now won trophies – and been named player-of-the-match – at both Twickenham and Murrayfield having been crowned a Scottish Cup under-18 champion with Murrayfield Wanderers at the latter stadium in 2014-15.
“I am overwhelmed,” she said as she was presented with the Pegers-Bunting player-of-the-match award following the 8-5 win. “I was determined to turn it around and this victory makes up for losing here with Durham University in the BUCS final earlier in the year. I didn’t want to go to Twickenham again and leave a loser by another narrow margin.
“We had been behind the whole game and we knew we had more to give. We didn’t want to end on that note. We had a team huddle with about five minutes to go and we said we wanted to go up field and play in their territory and play on our terms. The winning move came off the back of that.
“I thought ‘this is our last chance’ and I just went for it.
“Oxford had been really good in playing the conditions and they did a great job in keeping us on the back foot, they stopped us playing in the way we wanted to. On that occasion there wasn’t too much time to think about what I was doing. The white line was there and I just had to do my best to get over the line.”
Grant’s try from 40 metres or so out was a great finish and a suitable decider for such a big game. And with Scotland head coach Philip Doyle looking for more attacking options heading into the Six Nations and World Cup qualifiers in 2020, it will be interesting to see if Grant can push her way from the wider national training squad towards a first full cap.
She is studying for a Masters Degree in English Literature at Corpus Christi and admitted there was another thing that helped her score the try other than just talent. “I had my special Scottish pants on,” she revealed.
“That try will stand out for a long time and it will be a pretty special memory. Credit to the Oxford girls they really pushed us hard, but our team spirit got us through and what an occasion it was to be involved in.
“I just love playing rugby and the buzz you get from being involved in something like this is really special, we will enjoy the celebrations I’m sure.”
Simply one of the best trys in Women’s #VarsityMatch history.
— The Varsity Match (@VarsityMatch) December 12, 2019
Oxford had taken the lead with a try from tighthead prop Jessica Abele at the end of the first quarter before a penalty from Cambridge full-back Hannah Vandersluis made it 5-3 at the break.
Then Grant stuck from a scrum on the Oxford 10 metre line after a tactical switch moved her to inside centre from outside and she exploded through tackles before snaking her way to the try line.
Grant first dabbled in rugby when she was around 11 – training alongside school friend Edinburgh Rugby scrum-half Charlie Shiel – before she spent three years in her early teens living in Los Angeles with her family.
There she tried out American Football, but on her return to Scotland and the Royal High School she got straight back into rugby and enjoyed a few good years in the Murrayfield Wanderers age-grade teams.
Her journey then took her to Durham University in 2015 – with a year in Australia thrown in – before arriving at Cambridge and beginning to play for the university and the Saracens Development team in the summer of this year.
Meanwhile, Scotland age-grade cap Archie Smeaton and others with Scots’ connections – Chris Bell, Charlie McCallum and Dougal Russell – helped Cambridge win the men’s Varsity Match 15-0 later in the day.
Scrum-half Bell scored the final try and his team-mate Fergus Jemphrey was named player-of-the-match after the winger bagged two tries.