Weekly promotions, weekly relegations and constant drama have characterised the mixed touch rugby tournament held every Saturday morning this Trinity Term. The competition has attracted many players, truly galvanising interest in rugby across the university, with mixed teams from an unexpectedly large number of colleges taking part.
The teams are split into five divisions, with the top and bottom team at the end of each set of games being either promoted or relegated. Each team has seven players with a minimum of two women on the pitch at all times, which has been a great success in not only boosting the number of women playing rugby in the tournament, but in increasing interest among female players in joining the university teams next year. Indeed, two weeks ago, Oriel fielded a team of four women and three men and still managed to remain in the top division, demonstrating how the skill of the women (none of whom played for the university) was more than enough to hold a team.
With only two weeks left of the league this term, the intensity is truly heating up with teams battling it out to be in as high a division as possible for the final weekend of matches. Of course, with the league format having been in use since the start of term, many teams have had varied fortunes, with some teams rising through the divisions after a slow start whilst others have faltered after initially strong performances.
The real risers in the last few weeks of action include New College who, despite starting off in the lower divisions, has recently put out a strong team with a large turnout and has subsequently rattled off a number of convincing performances. In consecutive weeks, they were promoted to the premier division, the highest tier in the competition. Here New did not falter and continued its remarkable run of form by remaining in the division, playing in a solid style and never appearing out of place. In the top part of the competition, other teams have stood out for consistently performing at a high level for several weeks. Balliol, for instance, has remained in the second tier for three weeks now, a testament to its resilience and consistency in the competition. Oriel too have excelled in the competition, with its promotion in the first week of the competition being backed up by excellent performances that have seen them push repeatedly for the top of the Premier Division. Moreover, Oriel has had one of the greatest number of female players of any team, a testament to their teamwork and the attempts within the College to increase interest in playing amongst women. Oriel’s vice-captain for the tournament and a university rugby player, Imogen Duffy, told Cherwell, “Here in Oriel we are proud of the fact that we have remained in the top echelons of the competition whilst retaining a large number of women players each week.” The benefits of the mixed touch competition are evident in the inclusivity of the tournament.
However, other teams have been less successful in their results, which have seen them slip down the divisions over the course of the last few weeks. The Worcester Wookies, having been in division one, the second tier, for several weeks, are now in division three, an unfortunate outcome considering its excellent start in the first few weeks of term. Similarly, Corpus Christi, which admittedly has a small pool of players to choose from, was unable to maintain the level of play in the top division and has subsequently fallen into division one.
Thus, the fluid nature of the mixed touch rugby league is what is so exciting as the weekly battles for promotion and avoiding relegation have injected an intense element to the competition, which has garnered much interest for the tournament. With the end in sight, the competition is becoming more exciting and the conclusion promises to be every bit as enthralling as the weekly battle.