On Saturday 28 January, around 170 Magdalen students filed onto coaches bound for Cambridge, and the University sporting pinnacle of the year. Forget Varsity, forget the boat race, these college rivalry games are what it’s really all about.
While it’s true that college sport can be a gulf away from Blues-level in terms of the ability on show, it can often be far more important for the fans.
When you know every player on your team—eat with them, live with them, drink with them—there’s an added passion and desire to see them win, which you don’t see in all but the most interested Blues fans. This is why over a third of Magdalen’s students invaded Cambridge last Saturday, and it must be said that the invasion was successful. Probably the most important of the Magdalen vs Magdalene games is the rugby. This was Magdalen’s chance to put right Oxford’s loss at Twickenham in December, and they got off to a flying start.
It was not long before George Mason, an over-sized first year playing on the wing, burst through Magdalene’s defence to dot over for a try. Mason ended up coming away with another, after Dylan Merkel’s incredible cross field kick from 9 set him up for an easy run in. This was perhaps the best rugby move of the day, with MCRFC president Rob Mangan describing it accurately as “champagne rugby”.
John Saunders, another fresher in the team, who plays at 7 and is renowned for his bone-crunching tackles and infamous death stare, came away with a double, while Sam Williams also dotted down.
Yet by far the most impressive try-scoring performance came from Captain Joe Cullen. His incredible pace on the Magdalen wing put him through for a remarkable five tries. Magdalene Cambridge had no answer to Magdalen’s play, which put through Cullen time after time, and resulted in a fitting performance from the Oxford captain, who deserves both the win and his personal success, after putting in so much effort organising training sessions, as well as the Magdalen vs Magdalene day itself.
Cambridge bagged a couple of consolation tries, but at the end of the game it was 64-10 to Magdalen Oxford, and it could well have been even more.
The real highlight, however, was not Joe’s five tries, nor the champagne rugby, but was rather Dom Taylor’s crunching dive into one of Magdalene’s players early on, in competition for the ball. It was reckless, it was brutal, and it was typical, beautiful, college rugby. We’ve all sat around watching videos of filthy Sunday league tackles—they’re part of the beauty of the low-level game, and college rugby is certainly not any different.
It was not just the rugby team that played on Saturday, though. Netball too, did their college proud. Down 5-9 going into the last quarter, an incredible comeback from the team saw them triumph over the Magdalene side 13-11, 8-2 in the fourth quarter.
Magdalen’s football team also took the sword to their Cambridge counterparts, both in their 5-1 thrashing of Magdalene’s football team, and their subsequent destructive win in the post-match boat race.
The already jovial atmosphere at the football, with the crowd having just witnessed a brilliant rugby performance and the remarkable netball comeback, was added to when the rugby boys arrived, bringing loud chants and many drinks to the side-lines.
The mixed hockey team lost, in a close affair that ended 2-1, but three emphatic wins from four games cemented Magdalen Oxford’s sporting dominance over our Cambridge counterparts.
Special thanks go to Magdalen’s JCR President, Hannah McNicol, for her tireless work to organise the day, as well as all the captains who helped her, and Magdalene Cambridge’s JCR—we look forward to hosting next year.