You couldn’t tell over the gentle snoring of freshers, but anticipation was building as a bus full of Dark Blues fencers descended upon Cambridge at the crack of dawn on Saturday March 7th.
A highlight of the fencing year, the 108th Varsity Match was to take place for the first time in the Guildhall, Cambridge’s town hall. Whist far removed from the grand Exams Schools that hosts the Oxford leg of Varsity, the Guildhall was a step up from the cold and uninspiring Engineering Schools of previous years. After being thoroughly shown up by Oxford for several years it seemed the Tabs had finally lifted their game; hopefully their fencing was up to scratch.
As always there were two pistes, on opposite sides of the hall, with the Light Blues down one end and the Dark Blues the other. A battle of both fencing and cheering unfolded; an airhorn made an appearance in several dark blue hands, with many ears no doubt still ringing from its liberal use. The Blues matches were streamed live online for the second time in Varsity history.
The morning saw the Women’s Blues and Men’s Assassins face off against Cambridge. Women’s Blues Captain Harriet Dixon had given a truly rousing pre-match speech that saw the epee team give their best performance of the season, only narrowly losing in the final fight. A loss in the foil momentarily dampened their spirits, however, they rallied and ended the match with a one hit victory in the Sabre; a truly dramatic finish. The Men’s Assassins had a battle the whole way through. Ending up on the back foot out of the sabre, they were unable to claw their way back into the fight over the foil and epee.
A sunny Cambridge afternoon saw the Men’s Blues and Women’s Assassins take the piste. A tense sabre match left the Light Blues ahead in the Men’s. Despite a promising start in the foil, Cambridge edged away in the latter half leaving Oxford in a desperate place heading into the epee. The team was unable to match Cambridge’s intensity and the Men’s Blues had to say goodbye to the giant trophy won in 2014. The Women’s Assassins suffered a similar fate to the Men’s Assassins, ending up behind and unable to recover despite a strong performance from all team members, including some newly recruited pentathletes.
A tough day for the Dark Blues, it will be a long wait until revenge in the Exam Schools. However, in true OUFC style, the ordeals of the day were quickly forgotten as the team enjoyed the annual Varsity dinner with their Light Blue rivals before demonstrating prolific skills in boat racing and late night dancing!