Reigning Cuppers champions Worcester have been handed an unenviable task in their bid to emulate the 2011 side by retaining the coveted trophy at Iffley Road come Hilary.
The salmon pink Jericho outfit find themselves at the bottom of the Round of 16 draw in a half of the bracket containing no fewer than four other Premier Division sides – including the defeated finalists New College, and current Premier Division Champions St John’s – and will face off next against Brasenose. More pointedly, the side will spend their whole cup run on the road, a far-cry away from the boisterous on-site home fortress so vital to last year’s challenge; Worcester defeated Teddy Hall, Jesus and Exeter in consecutive Home knockout fixtures en-route to their triumph at Iffley.
The Premier Division teams showcased why they’re afforded the luxury of playing football on Mondays with a series of sweeping victories over lower opposition in the first round, but now face tougher challenges – headed not least by finding alternative training venues to Jamal’s and sourcing goalkeeper shirts that actually match the college kit.
It was Worcester who produced the most convincing performance of the round in putting eight past University, whilst New scored five of the best away to Oriel and Jesus also outpointed Division Three opposition, beating Magdalen 4-1. Exeter cruised through to the Ro16 with a bye, but it is St John’s – withholding a spirited late Merton/Mansfield comeback to win 3-2 – who may well be most prepared for the future rounds: all five Premier Division colleges now find themselves in the same half of the draw (see full draw bracket for individual fixtures).
Undoubtedly, the tie that stands out is the John’s visit to New College so early in the tournament, not least due to the parallels between the two dominant outfits: both teams enjoyed victorious league campaigns last time around and both were defeated in tight fought contests under the lights at Iffley. Now they are due to face off twice in the space of six days, with a vital opportunity to eye each other up in the league scheduled first.
Cuppers stalwarts Wadham found themselves 2-0 down to Trinity at half-time in their first-round encounter but moved through the gears convincingly late on with some free-flowing football to record an 8-2 rout. The light blues are drawn in the other half to their top division counterparts, facing a St Hugh’s side who saw off Keble, as they bid to reach the Quarter-Final stage of Cuppers for the fifth consecutive year.
St Catherine’s, the side who last year thwarted a trio of repeat semi-final appearances for Wadham, have however crashed out in what may go down as the biggest cup upset of the whole competition. The side sit top of the whole Oxford pyramid with nine points from a possible nine thus far this season but went down 3-2 (having been down 2-0 at half-time) in extra time against a St Peter’s side who were only last year relegated into Division Two. Peter’s have been rewarded with another away tie against Jesus and must surely now rate as a serious danger.
In the absence of Catz, the dominant college football force of recent years, Christ Church are a savvy bet as frontrunners to avenge their 2017 final defeat and register silverware to match their strong financial backing. The side have started their Division One season in flying fashion and if they can overcome a tricky away tie to Balliol will face the victors of an all newly promoted Division Two clash between Hilda’s and Hertford in the Quarter Final.
Also lurking in the top half of the draw as potential dangers are Teddy Hall, fresh from an impressive 5-1 away victory over Pembroke. The Hall face Division Two LMH back at Uni Parks where they are traditionally so strong, and the ground traditionally so soft.
The full Cuppers draw can be seen here.