Merton defeated in University Challenge final

Leonie Woodland's team were beaten by St John's College, Cambridge

Photo: BBC

Merton College were beaten in the final of University Challenge this evening, as they lost 145-100 to St John’s College, Cambridge.

After racing into an early fifty-point lead, Merton fell away as the show went on, as first-year St John’s student Rosie McKeown impressed with a series of correct answers.

The result means that the competition has now been won by a Cambridge college for four out of the past five series.

Merton had impressed throughout the series, and racked up the most points out of any team in both the first round and the quarter-finals.

They overcame Newcastle University in last week’s semi-final with relative ease, but an impressive St John’s side lived up to their billing as favourites on the night.

Tonight’s final was also the fifth in a row to be contested between an Oxford college and a Cambridge college.

Despite the college’s reputation for academic excellence, and the fact that they have regularly topped the Norrington Table in recent years, Merton have only won the competition once before.

That year’s team beat a Queen’s College, Cambridge side that included Stephen Fry in the final.

A member of the 1980 team, Steven Gunn, now works as a History professor at the college, and has taught two members of this year’s runners-up: Edward Thomas and Alex Peplow.

While the Oxbridge stranglehold on the competition has continued in this series, this was the final first since 2010 to feature a female-identifying student on both teams.

In the past few years, the show has come under the spotlight due to the lack of contestant who identify as female featuring in the latter stages of the competition.

Last year, St Hugh’s College was criticised for fielding an all-male team. Critics asked why a formerly-all-female college had chosen a team featuring four men.

In November, Wadham decided to enforce a gender quota for its entry into this year’s competition.

Last year’s series was won by Balliol College, who made headlines after refusing an interview with the Daily Mail, which they labelled a “fascist rag”.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Really hard luck, Merton! Either team could have taken it, each with a wondrously quick and clever lady leading the charge. Thank you for being so brilliant all the way, Leonie and the team. You can feel proud!
    An extra treat for me was Rosie being a linguist as I was at St John’s 1964-67. Not in her league though!

  2. Merton must be very disappointed – they were unbeatable in all the rounds. Glad I didn’t put money on it. Both teams were outstanding and so impressive.

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