Saturday 13th May saw Cambridge Pythons visit Oxford’s brand-new pitch at University Parks to face off against the Lancers in the 16th annual varsity bowl.
Although a strong team, the Lancers have faced a mixed season in their first year in Division 1. The Lancers suffered 5 losses but narrowly avoided relegation with 2 late season wins. This, paired with their unfortunate Varsity loss last year in a hard-fought contest against the Pythons, meant that the Lancers had it all to do this year.
It was a cloudy day as crowds trickled into the stands of the Lancer’s new pitch, their logo firmly placed in the centre. The ambience was very relaxed, a mood that was in stark contrast to the determined Blues. On home turf and with a strong team, they indeed had the advantage, but weren’t going to rely on it.
The game started out with good back-and-forth progress from both sides but neither team was able to establish themselves as the dominant offense. Soon however, the Lancers found an opportunity, capitalizing on a botched Pythons punt return and recovering the ball at the 15 yard-line. A couple of plays later, Quarterback Joel Chesters ran the ball wide to the right, avoiding tackles to score the first touchdown of the game – after a successful kick the score was 7-0 Lancers.
Joel Chesters continued to torment the tabs the whole second quarter, starting with an impressive pass over multiple defenders which landed in the hands of receiver #19, Kevin Kim for the touchdown. Another converted kick by #8 Greg Rashid took the score up to 14-0. But Chesters was not done yet and near the end of the second quarter, he once again unleashed a stunning ball which was taken to the house by #14 Aari Shah with a beautiful catch and incredible speed for a 70-yard touchdown. After a slow start, Oxford had broken the back line of Cambridge finishing the first half with a score of 21-0. The Lancers’ defence, led by #15 Tom Ricketts was staunch and stopped any Cambridge offensive progress. Any momentum that the Cambridge team could bring into the next half of the game was gone, as it looked like it was Oxford’s before the half-time whistle was blown.
The halftime show starred the impressive Sirens, who showed off flips and tricks to cheer on the team, and the mood in the stands and in the team was exciting and enjoyable. The players were cheered onto the field again for the second half of the game.
The Oxford Lancers running game, led by running back #2 David Ojeabulu defined the start of the second half. The Pythons were facing threats from Chesters on the outside and Objeablu up the middle throughout the game. The Lancers running duo proved too much for Cambridge as the tabs were caught out between clogging the middle and covering the outsides. Chesters quickly scored his fourth touchdown, this time running it again wide to the left. Another converted kick took
Eventually, the fourth quarter rolled around and after a touchdown from #2 Ojeabulu, a worthy reward for his 90+ yard effort in this game, the 35-0 score changed in Cambridge’s favour and a small bit of hope brewed for the clearly defeated Pythons. After a quick timeout, a well-deserved touchdown for the Pythons came behind a great drive from runningback #1 Mackintosh. The converted kick took the score to 35-7. With just a minute left to go, however, Oxford was keen to leave the biggest gap possible and collected another touchdown with just over a minute to play. Joel Chesters, the clear MVP of the match found his touchdown trifecta, a Lancer’s trick play had runningback Ojeabulu throw the ball to Chesters who ran it in for the touchdown; his reception made the score 41-7 and marked the end of the Blues Bowl.
Ultimately the Lancers outplayed the Pythons this year, righting the wrongs of last by playing a faultless game. The Pythons will be disappointed with the performance but should be proud of the fighting spirit that they had until the end.
Credit has to be given to all the event organisers, prominently Stewart Humble (#52 and Center for the Lancers) who in partnership with RC Milsap established the Lancers’ brand new grounds and organized this years Varsity Bowl. Credit is also due to the Sirens for their incredible performance midway. We look now to next year when Cambridge will seek to enact revenge.
Image Credit:Gary Chesters