The first round of football cuppers matches have taken place this week, with exciting matches and surprising results across the board. Cuppers, an Oxbridge-specific name for inter-collegiate competitions, takes place every year in a variety of sports, and for many, the football tournament is the pinnacle of inter-college rivalry. Last season New College clinched victory from Christ Church in the final, with a 2-1 victory that made up for 2018’s disappointment, when they lost in the final to Worcester. As the four semi-finalists from last year, New College, Worcester, Christ Church and Wadham are given a bye, meaning they will head straight into the second round of the tournament.

The opening fixture of the tournament saw Keble face off against the Corpus Christi/Linacre combined squad. Keble, who play in the JCR second division, were ultimately too strong for their opponents, and scored five goals with none in reply. Fresher Angus Lochrane scored a hat-trick on his debut for the team, and goals from Freddie Freeman and Arthur ‘Frube’ Fooks, propelling them with ease into the second round.

One notable clash from the first-round fixtures came in the match between St Hilda’s and Univ. The latter may have six hundred-odd more years of history over their opponents, but after failing to get past the first round last year, St Hilda’s were the favourites going into the clash, which was held at Univ’s sports ground, shared with Corpus Christi. From the outset, St Hilda’s were dominant, and at half-time the score was 6-0, with the home side failing to get a foothold in the match. The second half continued in the same way, and although University College managed to secure one goal on the score-line, St Hilda’s continued to rack up an impressive set of goals, scoring seven more before the final whistle and bringing their overall tally to 13. Goals included hat-tricks from Angus Wright and Jake Jackson, as well as individual goals from players including Thomas Barnes, Henry Bushell, Luke Pitman, Will Bentley and Kamran Sharifi.

Lincoln took on Pembroke over the weekend in another hotly-contested match. Neither team made it past the first round of the tournament last year, and it was reflected in the closely fought game. The score at half time was 2-2, with all to play for for both teams. However, Pembroke, who play in the Premier division, were ultimately too strong for Lincoln, who play in the third division, and they managed to net another goal, bringing the final score to a 3-2 victory for the visiting side.

Meanwhile, Trinity took on the Merton/ Mansfield combined side at the Trinity grounds last week. Similarly to Lincoln and Pembroke’s fixture, neither team made it out of the first round in last year’s tournament, so the possibility of a second-round spot was an attractive prospect. Merton/Mansfield proved the stronger force in the first half, going into the break with a score-line of 4-1 to the visitors. However, the goal difference only extended as the match went on, and the Merton/Mansfield team scored a further five goals in the second half, leading to a final score of 9-3, meaning Merton/Mansfield came away with their first 1st team victory since March 2018. Matthew Feaster and Trajan Halvorsen both scored hat-tricks for their winning side, with further goals from Adam Austin, Kaiyang Song and Nick Ridpath, while Trinity’s three goals came from Jack Cross and a brace from Otis Brankin-Frisby.

St Hugh’s took on Brasenose on Sunday; both teams play in the JCR second division, so the sides looked evenly matched. The St Hugh’s side, who were playing away at Brasenose’s sports ground, largely controlled the game, particularly in midfield, and despite a resurgence in the second half from the host side, were ultimately victorious, coming away with a score of 3-2, and securing their place in the next round. Fresher Patrick Robinson, a new addition to the Hugh’s team, scored a goal, and MCR student Barney Poznansky scored two to cement the win. Arguably, there was scope for a wider margin of victory, and the Hugh’s attack were left bemoaning their shots on goal as Brasenose increased the pressure in the final minutes of the game. However, overall, the visiting side were deserved winners and defended resolutely throughout.

First round fixtures continue in the coming days, with LMH set to take on St Catz, who topped the JCR Premier division last season, and third division side Oriel take on will take on St John’s.

While the men’s competition has got underway, first round matches have also been taking place in the women’s cuppers tournament, and Saturday’s fixtures went ahead with enthusiasm despite the less than ideal weather conditions. Last year’s title was taken by St Catz, who won 4-1 in the final against a Keble/Hertford combined side, and they, along with the other semi-finalists, got a bye for the first round of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Christ Church and Oriel’s combined team beat St Hugh’s 8-3, and the latter will now be placed in the Hassan’s Cup tournament after their triumphant journey to the final last year. The Foxes, an amalgamated team of various graduate colleges, stormed to a 9-0 victory against LMH & Trinity’s combined team, and the former will be hungry for more success after taking the Hassan’s Cup trophy in March. A similar landslide victory befell Teddy Hall’s away fixture against Lincoln, in which the visitors scored twelve goals in keeping with the college’s reputation for sporting dominance, to progress to the next round with a win of 12-0.

Jesus’ women’s team faced off against St Hilda’s and St Peter’s combined team, and came away with a hard-fought 6-4 victory to take them to the next round. The final fixture of the weekend was Worcester’s clash against Exeter, in which Exeter held their own against a strong side to take a 4-2 victory for the club. The reserves cuppers tournament, for college’s second and third teams, is also getting underway this week.

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