Early Saturday morning, sixteen teams gathered under grey skies in University Parks from as far afield as St. Andrews and Galway. Passionate reunions ensued alongside the resurgence of simmering rivalries. But behind all the camaraderie, a glint of steel shone in players’ eyes, for this was no ordinary tournament. From the first call of ‘Brooms Up!’ to sunset on Sunday those sixteen would battle through rain, mud and facebeats to be crowned champion of the inaugural British Quidditch Cup.
Oxford’s first team, the Radcliffe Chimeras, opened their group stage with an established strategy: Chaser breaks spearheaded by captain Ash Cooper, backed by a bedrock of defensive Beaters such as James ‘Jesus’ Burnett. John ‘Bonecruncher’ Martin and Luke Twist, taking turns as Keeper, displayed their uncanny ability to apparently be at both their own hoops and their opponents’ at the same time, overwhelming teams through sheer offensive pressure. They defeated Nottingham Nargles, Derby Union and London’s Unspeakables 130-50*, 150-30* and 100-50* respectively (the asterisk indicating which team caught the Snitch, worth 30 points). The Chimeras had dominated their group, their path to the quarter finals was clear, and they were yet to bear their teeth.
Meanwhile, our second team, the Quidlings, were making their mark. Despite mostly consisting of freshers who had only been playing for three weeks, their training under the Chimeras meant they had a chance of making a real impact. But their first match was their most difficult, as they faced the experienced Leicester Lovegoods. It started well – the Quidlings had their opposition on the back foot and took the lead. However, Leicester responded by bringing on their most physical Chasers, and the Quidlings’ inexperience showed as they cracked under pressure, losing the game 50-110*. With two matches left, qualification was still within the Quidlings’ grasp. Could they recover and maintain their form from the start of the Leicester match? They could, and they did. Norwich Nifflers and Chester Chasers fell to a squad with something to prove, and teamwork that gave them the means to do so. Tenacious Seeking from Mel Grant, Ellen Murray and Dani Ellenby left the respective scores at 90*-10 and 200*-20. The Quidlings had made it to the quarters.
The next morning saw the Quidlings pitted against the indomitable Southampton in their quarter final. Despite a valiant effort, they were unequipped to deal with the opposition’s tactics and were pinned down, with Southampton beating so much as a stray toe over the halfway line. The Quidlings lost 0-100*. But with only three weeks of training they had placed in the top 50% of UK Quidditch. The next tournament they play in had best be prepared.
Southampton progressed to the semis to face the Chimeras, who had won their quarter final against Leeds Griffins 140*-0. The Chimera was awake and, true to our motto, it was Flying Sexy. Seven hoops and a Snitch catch by Twist made it 100*-0 to Oxford’s finest, and the Quidlings were avenged.
We gathered for the final with bated breath, for the Chimeras’ fellow finalists were their notorious rivals, Avada Keeledavra. The match promised to be an incendiary conclusion to the tournament, and it didn’t disappoint, with some of the most physical Quidditch of the weekend. Keele players got within point blank range of the hoops only to be thrown to the ground, and Angus Barry and Enrica Biasi found themselves in a brutal battle for Bludger control. However, they held their own, and when the Chimeras had two Bludgers the field was theirs, particularly thanks to the spectacular Bludger shots of Matty ‘Panda’ Murrell. Another strategy that came to the fore was that of Chasers such as Abby Whiteley, Elisabeth Jørstad and Charis Horn, whose perpetual harrying of players twice their size hampered the Keele offense, forcing bad passes that were swiftly converted into Chimera goals. Faced with such obstacles, Keele could not help but stumble, finally resorting to a ‘suicide snatch’ of the Snitch to end the game on their own terms. Final score: 110-60* to the Chimeras. The first ever British champions, with a top-flight second team – Oxford’s meteoric rise shows no signs of slowing.