2013-2014: The year of watery victories

It has been a positive season for those representing Oxford across the sporting spectrum. Although there has been the odd spot of despair, much inclement weather, and a few occasions of the two combined, sport in the city of dreaming spires has flourished. Varsity successes have been plentiful – Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor even admitted that we were better sportspeople than them – and there have even been a couple of national victories to celebrate too.

To begin with a heartwarming tale from early in the year, November saw University College’s ‘ergathon’ which sought to raise money for the late Olympic medallist Acer Nethercott, who after coxing for the University had gone on to represent Great Britain and win a silver medal, only to sadly pass away over due to a brain tumour during the Summer.

Elsewhere in the University’s sporting bub- ble there were several bruising encounters for the rugby union boys, who were unlucky to lose against both then-Premiership side Worcester Warriors, and the Russian national side. These defeats came after a testing schedule which had included several pre-season ties against top Basque sides. Meanwhile, the women’s Blues made a strong start to the year on the field, and were also part of a fundraising drive off it; a campaign to raise money to floodlight their training pitch involved engaging the men in a series of challenges, and then a naked calendar in aid of the Mind Your Head campaign was a massive success, going viral in the process. The side would then go on to win the varsity game convincingly, a credit to the University in more ways than one.

The Oxford judo club took home an impres- sive silver medal from the BUCS national cham- pionships, and the hockey club’s ‘Infrequents’ put a stunning 20 goals past Worcester in an entertaining – if one-sided – league match. Later in the year, the hockey men would win the BUCS Premier South title in stunning style too. The Varsity Ski Trip went ahead as usual at the beginning of the vacation, although this year’s was notable for a coach crash which left some hungover Oxbridge skiers briefly stranded.

The big engagement over the Christmas vacation was, however, the annual varsity rugby match at Twickenham. A tense opening gave way to Oxford dominance as Matt Janney – the man who was about to become famous as Emma Watson’s boyfriend – along with the indomitable John Carter put the Tabs to the sword. Drama was to ensue though, as last year’s hero Samson Egerton saw himself red- carded – becoming the first player to be sent off in the fixtures long history. This bump in the road barely threatened to derail a dark blue victory though; the Oxford side won in style.

Hilary began with the University’s female footballers putting the noisy neighbours from Headington in their place – with Oxford Brookes ending the match between the two sides on the wrong end of a six-nil thrashing after brilliant performances from the likes of captain Anna Green.

Unfortunately though, the award for Hilary’s outstanding sportsperson has to be given to the weather for the second year running. After the ‘#CherwellGreatStorm’ had threatened to derail Michaelmas, the rain (and floods) returned with a vengeance after Christmas, although both had luckily subsided by the time the college football season reached its climax. A Teddy Hall team which scored for fun won the league, whilst Exeter’s perennial nearly-men finally became Cuppers champions.

As the term continued the Varsity victories came thick and fast, with a fifth successive rugby league victory, a clean sweep in the badminton, netball and lacrosses victories, and yet another swimming success. Unfortunately the women’s footballers were less lucky, going down to two traumatic defeats in a rare disappointment.

The boxing club did an impressive double in the spring, winning the annual ‘Town vs. Gown’ event in February before going on to defeat the Tabs 7-2. ‘Town vs. Gown’ was particu- larly notable for the Dark Blue side’s successful female contingent.

The Easter holidays were packed with sporting treats; a tense varsity football match was followed by Cambridge’s chance for rowing revenge on the Thames, whilst there were goats galore at the subversive ‘Varsity Goat Race’. In the end, the spoils were shared, as Oxford dominated the waterborne event after Cambridge’s boat was subject to a broken oar, whilst the Tab footballers came out on top after a penalty shootout. Earlier in the holidays the women had dominated their own varsity boat race – the last time it will be held separately from the men – as both the main Blue boat and the light-weights took dominant victories at Henley.

Meanwhile, in the Alpine resort of Alpe D’Huez, our skiers slalomed their way to a BUCS silver medal in the last of the season’s snow. With Trinity came a combination of sun, thunder, and as always, cricket, and the stand-out early occasion saw the University’s female cricketers take on a star-studded MCC side which included internationals such as Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards. As expected, the MCC came out easy winners. The Oxford side made-up for this though, as they beat the Tabs in the Varsity twenty20 match, before the men’s match was washed out. The rugby season finally finished too, with St. Anne’s and St. John’s defeating Teddy Hall in the final of cuppers.

Five-a-side, tennis and cricket cuppers, and then summer eights, provided a fitting end to the college sporting year. A Trinity football side including two Blues players dominated the small-sided football tournament, then a combined New/St. Hilda’s side won the cricket competition, before Wadham and Oriel became the respective heads of the river on an overcast Saturday of 5th week.

It would also be remiss to forget to mention the all-conquering darts team who won the national title up in far-off Newcastle, or the go-karting team who successfully shoed the Tabs again.

All in all, it has been an encouraging year for this University’s sports teams, and after outgoing Sports Federation President Made- leine Sava told Cherwell back in October that a “huge aim of mine is to see an overall Varsity victory”, Cherwell Sport would contend that Sava can hand over to successor Thomas Carver with a clear conscience.

As such, although this article is ever-so-slightly premature given that most of the tennis and cricket varsity contests are still to come, we can look back on an uplifting year for Oxford sport. We might have fallen slightly in the overall BUCS rankings, but a strong varsity showing and a few stunning successes – let’s not forget BUCS darts glory, victory in the Athletics varsity, a or successful swimming, lacrosse, and netball seasons – bode well for next year.