College Sport

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Blues build for Varsity showdown

Described as ‘a mixed season’ by Football Blues captain Jack Fletcher, the Blues have been strong at home all year – losing just one league fixture at Iffley through a last minute goal by a capable Nottingham side who head the BUCS division. With veterans Ezra Rubenstein and Peder Beck-Friis firing on all cylinders, the team have played attacking football and improved significantly throughout the course of the campaign. Though having lost three times on their travels so far, many by unfortunate errors and narrow margins, the Blues have chalked up vital positive results in a 3-1 victory over Worcester and a creditable 0-0 draw against Coventry in games that Fletcher said would ‘define our season’. Having secured 4 out of a possible 6 points against opponents in similar and precarious positions in the table the Blues were able to secure Midalnds 1A league survival for another season, finishing 3rd behind dominant Nottingham and Birmingham sides. Facing a large turnover of players and transition in personnel last summer, Fletcher has confronted similar challenges to that of David Moyes, though with arguably greater success – a 1-0 victory over UCD and a 3-1 triumph over Trinity College Dublin in the unbeaten Tour of Ireland showing the force and potential of the current crop. New boys Brook Tozer and Mike Essman have added bite and flair to the midfield, while healthy competition has kept all players on their toes.

The Blues now begin to look to Varsity on the 6th of April at Craven Cottage. In a game to be played immediately before the boat race, the team are excited to play at such a prestigious venue and in-front of a large crowd, who will experience great views of both the football and the river following the match, witnessing both of Oxford’s latest high-profile sporting endeavours. Fletcher summarised the Blues’ chances and feelings by saying, ‘The Varsity matches are always one-off occasions – we unfortunately don’t play at Craven Cottage every week – and form tends to go out of the window, so there is no doubt that it will be a very tight contest. The team and I are incredibly excited to play at a Premier League ground in the heart of London and we hope we can make amends for Varsity defeats last year’. With Cambridge having faced a similar mixed season, this season’s Varsity seems too close to call and promises to be an incredibly tense and exciting affair. Following last season’s close 3-2 defeat at Selhurst Park, Oxford have added incentive to go one step better and once again hang dark blue ribbons from the Varsity trophy.

The Blues will continue to train throughout Easter, with the much anticipated final squad announcement coming in the week leading up to the match. Defender Ben May and the Captain himself will hope to be fit for this year’s squad, having missed out through illness and injury respectively last time around. With so many new players in the squad, competition is stiff and training has become noticeably more intense, with every player raising the bar in their respective positions. This can only strengthen the Blues in their attempt to return the Varsity trophy to it’s spiritual home at Iffley Road. Supporters can buy tickets for the event now on the Fulham FC website or by contacting current University players – at a bargain price for what promises to be a fantastic afternoon of the beautiful game at a historic venue.


Mansfield hit five past Worcester women as First Division begins.

Mansfield Road Women completed a resounding 5-0 victory over Worcester Women in their Saturday afternoon clash at the University Club grounds. It marked an impressive start to the season for Road as they look to build on their league winning campaign last year.

Mansfield certainly got the better of the opening exchanges, and took a two goal lead within the first ten minutes. Skillful play from Road’s number ten Katie Warnaby saw her play in her namesake Katie Wright, who completed a neat finish to the bottom right of goal.

The Warnaby-Wright partnership, which linked up well all afternoon, combined again not long after to force an own goal from the unfortunate Worcester centre-back.

Worcester responded by bringing on two substitutes, which did seem to make a difference, settling them down into a better rhythm. Despite this, they struggled to clear their defensive lines throughout the first half and suffered for it, giving the ball away too cheaply in the middle of the park. On the rare occasion that they were able to break, a lack of forward support saw their attacks swiftly break down against a well-organised Mansfield back line.

Worcester’s best moment of the half came from a speculative effort from Zara Pollard, driving in a shot from five yards outside the penalty area which was saved comfortably by the Road keeper. Unfortunately for Worcester, the end of the first half was a mirror image of the opening, as Mansfield saw their pressure rewarded with two goals in quick succession. Clare Allsop scrambled the ball in after a smart interchange of play from Kat Coyte and Kim Cowan, then Katie Wright saw her shot from just inside the area deflected into the back of the net.

Despite the intimidating first half deficit, Worcester’s second half response gave them something to be proud of. Careful to sharpen up defensively, they made sure they committed numbers on the break and in the end probably deserved better than the final result.

In truth, however, Mansfield Road’s organisation, structure of play and familiarity of their team mates game made them deserving victors. Road seemed a yard faster and a lot stronger than Worcester during much of the game, and their formidable attacking presence caused their opponents constant problems.

There were glimpses of what Worcester could be capable of, particularly in the final quarter of the match, but a late resurgence could do nothing about the final outcome, which was topped off by Katie Wright, Road’s best player of the match. Driving a shot from just outside the area, it was too much for the Worcester keeper to handle, making the final 5-0 scoreline an improvement on the last time the two teams met in November last year, where Mansfield Road ran out 4-0 winners.

On the strength of this performance Mansfield Road look like strong contenders for the Women’s First Division, while Worcester, despite their second half rejuvenation, have plenty of work to do.

St Catherine’s 6

 Worcester 0

Fresh from Cuppers victory in Trinity term, but with a new-look team, St Catz looked to the fixture against Jesus with optimism, on the back of an unbroken run of victories that stretches as far back as last November.  The match promised to be a lively affair from kick-off, with Catz dominating possession across the midfield, yet being denied clear goal scoring opportunities by a stoic Jesus defence.

However, the deadlock was broken after fifteen minutes by a looping aerial shot courtesy of Lucia Groizard, following some good link-up play down the Catz right. Catz doubled their lead within five minutes, with Amy Trenter’s clearance from a Jesus attack finding the able feet of Groizard who nestled the ball in the bottom left corner for her second. On the brink of half-time Catz made it 3, with some excellent midfield play from fresher Grace Kneafsey finding captain Anna Wakelin on the edge of the box, who fired home.

Jesus came out fighting in the second half, with some good spells of possession across their midfield, but any hopes of a valiant comeback were sadly dashed by the completion of Groizard’s hat-trick, from an excellent pass by Megan Alexander on the right. Once the fourth goal had been scored, Jesus struggled to get the ball out of their own half, and were faced with an onslaught of Catz chances, fresher Ananya Birla coming close on many occasions.

An unfortunate handball in the box lead to Trenter converting from the penalty spot for St Catz’ fifth, and not long after Birla scored a well-deserved goal from the edge of the penalty box to make it six to Catz. Jesus should be credited with a plucky and determined performance, and both teams have plenty of positives to take away into their next fixtures.

Somerville 2

Foxes 0

Somerville Women inflicted a sound 2-0 defeat upon Foxes on a rain-soaked Wolfson pitch on Sunday afternoon. In blustery and wet conditions, the weakened Foxes side found themselves muscled out of the midfield and it was only last-ditch defending, and profligacy by the Somerville attack, that prevented the match seeing a cricket scoreline.

Owing to a shortage of players, Foxes began the match with just ten men, a disadvantage in numbers that showed most prominently in the middle of the park that formed the centrepiece for the accomplished Somerville passing game. The numbers in the midfield were unbalanced and the Foxes attack struggled to assert itself, reduced to a few scattered and optimistic runs into the Somerville half. Midway through the first period the traffic was one way and it began to look increasingly inevitable that the Foxes defence would break. A series of good chances went begging for the Somerville attacking line before, five minutes from the break, striker Lena Naassana opened the scoring. A corner came in from the right and, as the Foxes defence faffed about getting it clear, Naassana bundled the ball home to deservedly give the lead to Somerville. With one period of play finished, the 1-0 scoreline was flattering to Foxes if anything, as the Somerville attack had been applying all the pressure and let a host of good chances go begging.

The picture didn’t improve for Foxes in the second half, as they lost another player (apparently to a more important appointment) during the break. However they started brightly enough, applying early pressure and making one of a very few forays into the Somerville box. Two minutes later, however, Naassana scored a second time to effectively put the game beyond doubt. Taking the ball on the left hand side of the Foxes box she curled an effort into the far corner of the goal and doubled the Somerville lead. From here it was not a question of whether Somerville would win, but by how many. It was a testament to their resistance that the scoreline remained only 2-0 through the rest of the half. Somerville did themselves no favours, however, as they continued to be wasteful with the ball on the attack. This was a game that could so easily have been a rout, and 2-0 does little to convey the dominance of the Somerville players.

It remains early in the College League season and although Somerville will have come up smiling from this particular game, the Foxes team can take their staunch defending as a heartening positive to carry forward into their next match.


Merton/Mansfield 1

St John’s 0

Newly promoted Merton/Mansfield didn’t lose a single league fixture last season, meaning this year they find themselves in Division Two, facing the likes of last year’s Cuppers Champions, St Catz College. But, undaunted by their own success, they look set to continue their good form after a well-earned 1-0 defeat of St John’s.

In the opening minutes Merton/Mansfield came under tremendous pressure from an experienced John’s side. Habiba Daggash made life difficult for the defence, threatening several goals in the first half, but Merton/Mansfield keeper Sophie Smith denied her every opportunity with some confident saves.

After forty minutes of play and no goals it looked as though the two sides had reached something of a stalemate and a goalless draw seemed like.  However, Merton/Mansfield striker, Natasha Stotesdbury, came up with the goods in spectacular style with a run in from the corner and a looping shot which sailed over the St John’s keeper and into the net.

All the M&Ms then had to do was hold off the St John’s attack for a further twenty minutes in order to secure their first three points of the season. This proved to be easier said than done when St John’s, led by captain Madeleine Forman, stepped up their efforts inside the Merton/Mansfield penalty area. One shot deflected tantalisingly off the post whilst another looked sure to go in before it was expertly tipped over the bar by Smith, who was easily St John’s biggest obstacle in the game.

To the frustration of St John’s, the Merton/Mansfield defence was a tough nut to crack thanks to the efforts of centre backs Jess Odone and Imy Buchan, and the elusive equaliser never came, leaving the final score at 1-0 to the M&Ms.




Keep on running at Cross Country Cuppers

Oxford’s best long-distance runners were on full display on a grey Saturday, as Cuppers Cross Country took over South Parks for an afternoon of impressive endurance.

Following a strong turn-out, including several impressive performances from freshers, the Dark Blues are hoping that both men’s and women’s teams can be triumphant at the annual Varsity Cross Country match against Cambridge at Wimbledon Common in December.

The hills and mud of South Parks made for a tough course, not too dissimilar from Wimbledon, and it is hoped that running the trial race on such a testing circuit will help prepare the Oxford squad for the race that awaits them on seventh December.

Eight men and six women can be selected for the Blues’ team, with further squads selected for the seconds’ and thirds’ match the week before at Shotover.

Former England Junior International Cross Country runner Tom Frith of St Anne’s made it a hattrick of Cuppers titles, taking victory over the near 10K distance by a clear margin. The fourth-year Physics student hopes that he can enjoy his best ever finish in the Varsity match in six weeks time:

“The course was a good representation of the Varsity match, so I’m pleased to put in a decent performance. It is my last year so I am doing everything I can to help the team win the prestigious title of Varsity champions!”

Next across the line was first-year undergraduate Will Christofi, followed by Worcester’s Adam Speake.

The women’s race was also highly competitive, with three athletes getting away on the uphill section on the second lap three, with American graduate student Claire McIlvennie taking victory ahead of last year’s Blue’s member Joanna Klaptocz. German international triathlete Sophie Saller completed the top three.

Club captain Naomi Webber was thrilled the standard of running on display: “It was a really good day. The course was hard but everyone coped well. There was so much fantastic new talent out running – we have great strength in depth this year, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming matches against Cambridge.”


Justin time for Keble as Leung heads the field

Pouring rain did little to hamper the mood at the annual Oxford Athletics Cuppers on Sunday, with students doing their best to provide a ray of sunshine amid the darkened skies.

Ultimately, Keble took top honours in the college stakes with 173 points to St John’s 106, and 36 cuppers standards were achieved by a total of 53 athletes. with the afternoon providing a useful warm up for many dark blues ahead of Varsity later in the year.

Standout performances came from last year’s BUCS 4x400m bronze medallist George Grundle (St Johns) who stretched his legs over 400m to win in 51.9s, while his medal-winning teammate Adam McBraida (Jesus) won the 200m by five seconds in 27.1s.

Louis Gardner (Lady Margaret Hall) impressed to take the 800m title in 2:05.7, whilst Ian Shevlin (St Catherines) was the only man sub-12 in the 100m, clocking 11.9s.

In the field, triple jumper Sam Trigg (Worcester) tried his hand at high jump, taking victory with 1.75m, while Tom Cross (Kellogg) won the javelin with 37.16m.

On the women’s side, Emily Stone showed her potential as a sprinter, taking the 100m in 13.6, before showing her versatility with 5.02m in the long jump and 24.42m in the javelin.

Stone, of Hertford, ended up as the top-scoring female athlete, racking up an impressive 83 points, while it was Justin Leung of Keble who took the men’s honour with 50 points.

In what were treacherous conditions for hurdling, Heli Copley (Keble) played a valuable role in helping her college to win the competition, by claiming maximum points in the 100m in 18.8s., with Christina Nick (Pembroke) winning the discus with 26.54m.

Even more exciting is that Oxford has many more blues and new athletes to strengthen the dark blue contingent in time for Varsity and BUCS.

Mao Isobe

Worcester source three points against brave Balliol

Reigning champions Worcester overcame a half-time deficit to beat Premier League newcomers Balliol in a game that should be remembered for a laudable act of sportsmanship by the Balliol captain Alex Hawkins-Hooker, who allowed Worcester to use rolling subs to prevent them being reduced to 10 men.

It was also a match that, despite the final result, proved that Balliol will be no pushovers this season, as the Jowett Walk side pushed their opponents to the limit with an impressive passing game and tireless work ethic.

Displaying the sort of discipline that comes from having retained the bulk of last season’s Division One-winning side, Balliol started the game the brighter of the two sides, with Freshers Du’Aine Davis and Loz Warner contributing to a fluid possession game that Worcester seemed unable to cope with.

Despite all Balliol’s good work, however, it was a Worcester error that led to the first goal, as Jack Hostick stole the ball from the Worcester defence before rounding the ‘keeper and slotting home. It was a composed finish that showed every sign of Hostick being able to make the step up to the top division, having ended last season as college football’s leading scorer.

The goal made little difference to the flow of the game, with Tom Phelan unable to make much headway against Balliol’s five-man midfield, and although neither goalkeeper had much to do, Balliol’s extra pace on the wings meant that they would possibly have been disappointed to go into the break only one up.

Worcester came out the stronger in the second half, but they were helped by a sporting gesture from Alex Hawkins-Hooker. After a combination of injuries and unexpected player departures left Worcester facing playing the majority of the second half with ten men, the Balliol ‘skipper allowed them to bring on an already-substituted player so they could finish the match with their full contingent.

The current league and Cuppers champions took full advantage, and it was Tang-Wright who proved the inspiration. After a sustained spell of Worcester pressure, the winger powered past George Colenutt and, with two men in pink waiting in the middle for the cut-back, instead drove the ball low past Balliol ‘keeper Adam Laycock at the near post.

That was the break Worcester needed, and they made it two not long after when the Balliol defence failed to deal with a long punt forward, and the Worcester forward slotted.

Balliol were not to be fazed, however, and they drew themselves level when some composed play from Hawkins-Hooker at the back started a move that ended with Jack Hostick, who was clinical as ever in when put through one-on-one.

It was not to be for Balliol however, and the winning goal came with 10 minutes to go. A Worcester corner was headed home by Tang-Wright for his second of the game, and despite some sustained Balliol pressure late on, Worcester held on.

Balliol vice-captain Adam Laycock was proud of his team’s performance, despite the result: “The fact that we’re disappointed having lost to last season’s best side shows how well we performed.”

The record books will show the final score was 3-2, but Hawkins-Hooker’s gesture to Worcester, encapsulating the spirit of college football, should also be remembered.

lincoln cuppers

Old foes to clash in Cuppers

Fans were already awaiting a feast of football this Michaelmas with El Clasico, the Tyne-Wear derby and the first Premier League meeting of Cardiff and Swansea on our screens in the coming weeks. Today, the Cuppers’ draw threw up a rivalry which trumps them all.

All eyes will be on Abingdon Road in 3rd Week as Brasenose take on their oldest foes, Lincoln. The sides have not locked swords since the Turl Street College dispatched their hosts 3-1 in February last year. They will also meet twice in the League following Lincoln’s relegation from the JCR Premiership.

Having scooped the trophy 14 times, Brasenose have the superior Cuppers history. Lincoln, however, have the recent pedigree. In 2010 they won the trophy as a 3rd Divison side, beating St Catz 4-0 at Iffley Road, and suffered extra-time heartbreak at the hands of Wadham in last season’s semi-final.

“It’s always a big match for Brasenose against Lincoln. Being drawn against them, especially in the first round of Cuppers, is huge,” said Brasenose captain Pelham Barron. “It will definitely be exciting, a must-watch game. I have great confidence in my squad, and a win here could be just the sort of push we need to make a deep run in the tournament.”

Alex Wilson, the Lincoln captain, said: “I was gutted we couldn’t go all the way last year but we’re determined to make it to Iffley this time and look forward to getting our campaign off to a flying start by putting a few past Brasenose.”

The draw has also pitted Christ Church against neighbours Pembroke. Christ Church were knocked out by Wadham in last season’s quarters which left them still in search of that elusive 10th Cuppers crown.

Brazil were famously awarded possession of the Jules Rimet trophy in 1970 for all eternity after winning three World Cups. Having won the last three finals, it is surprising that Worcester haven’t petitioned OUAFC to keep the Cuppers trophy.

Yet a fourth successive title will not be walk in the park. Worcester’s “golden generation” has all-but-graduated, leaving their new recruits to tackle Merton/Mansfield in the first round. Wadham, who Worcester swept aside to complete their Cuppers hat-trick, have an easier ride. They are one of four teams to receive a bye.

A tricky test awaits them in the second round, however. They will play the winners of Corpus/Linacre’s clash with New, who reached the semi-finals last time.

Cuppers Round 1

LMH v Magdalen

Worcester v Merton/Mansfield

Oriel v Queen’s

St Hildas v Somerville

Teddy Hall v Univ

Exeter v St John’s

Brasenose v Lincoln

Trinity v Keble

New v Corpus/Linacre

Pembroke v Christ Church

St Hugh’s v St Anne’s

St Catz v Jesus

Byes: Hertford, St Peter’s, Wadham, Balliol

Ties to be played in 3rd Week

The Oxford Student

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