Oxford’s Blues footballers fired a warning shot to their rivals by winning a pre-season tournament at Bristol University.
Two 1-0 wins against Bristol 2nds and Bath Spa 1sts and a 1-1 draw against Bristol 1sts gave the Blues the perfect preparation for their first game of the BUCS season, a tricky test away to Birmingham University on October 16.
A host of new recruits, including Mike Essman and Michael Feeney from across the Atlantic, hope to bring a second successive promotion for the Blues’ after reaching the Midlands 1A Division last season.
The new signings looked to have mastered the passing football which has characterised the Blues over the last few years in the tournament’s first clash against Bristol 1sts.
Jack Fletcher’s side dominated possession and broke the deadlock when Ezra Rubenstein slipped the ball through to Matt Smith, who executed a deft lob into the top right-hand corner. A moment of brilliance robbed Oxford of victory, however, when the hosts curled a free-kick past goalkeeper Ben Szreter with only five minutes remaining.
Rubenstein was the match-winner in the second contest as Oxford edged a dogged contest against Bristol’s 2nd team.
With both teams tiring in the sweltering heat the nippy winger was the difference, waltzing past two defenders and rolling the pall calmly inside the far post.
The visitors returned rejuvenated for their final match against Bath Spa 1sts but for all their toiling they could not find a breakthrough in the first half. Three times the Blues had the goalkeeper beaten, three times they saw the ball cannon back off the woodwork. Ben May saw a fourth attempt against the crossbar from a corner midway through the second half only for Adam Heardman to tuck in the rebound and seize the trophy.
A triumphant Oxford will complete their pre-season with fixtures against the Amateur Football Association, the Old Carthusians and Hartpury Academy.
Elsewhere, the Centaurs introduced a new coaching team during their pre-season who are looking to improve upon the work of last season’s captain Tom Phelan.
The team suffered two narrow heartbreaks last season, missing out on the league title on goal difference and losing Varsity by a single goal.
Newly-appointed captain will be hoping to guide the Centaurs to that elusive league and cup double. They travelled to London for their final pre-season friendly where they defeated Imperial College 1sts 2-0.
A superb solo goal from John Craven in the last play of the game saw Keble win mixed hockey cuppers at Iffley Road on Saturday. Cheered on a by a small but vocal crowd, the underdogs pulled off a dramatic upset to beat favourites St Catherine’s College by 3 goals to 2.
In a tense opening period littered with mistakes by both sides, it was Catz who started brighter, repeatedly threatening the Keble D and only being kept out by some frantic and scrambled defending. Yet it was Keble who finally broke the deadlock after 28 minutes: when a free hit on the edge of the D was deflected fortuitously into the path of Max Freeman-Mills, the crowd favourite made no mistake, rifling the ball past the Catz keeper with devastating accuracy. A determined Keble side then worked hard to consolidate their lead, however a yellow card to center back Stuart Murphy saw Catz begin to gain momentum. Some excellence on the line defending from Danny Johnson momentarily kept the favourites at bay, before Becky Wyatt took advantage of some sloppy defensive play at a short corner to drive the ball between the legs of keeper Andy Pursley, leaving the game all square at half time.
Both sides emerged from the break clearly determined to seize the initiative, and a yellow card for Catz after some persistent stick tackling made Keble seem the more likely scorer. The Saints defended rigorously however, until their resistance was finally broken in the 59th minute with John Craven deftly flicking the ball into the net after an incisive pass from playmaker Felix Hamer.
An unfortunate injury to a St Catz player caused a lengthy stop in play, but the favourites came out fighting, forcing two smart saves from Pursley in a spell of persistent pressure. Keble’s lack of discipline in the D saw yet another short corner for Catz, and this time Hugh Brannan made no mistake, placing the ball skillfully past the Keble keeper to level the score again and set up a tense finale. As both sides pushed hard for an elusive winning goal, the game became increasingly open, with possession changing hands on an almost pass-by-pass basis. Yet just as the match seemed destined for penalty flicks, Craven bagged his second, forcing his way inside the D and sweeping home a superb finish with quite literally the last touch of the game.Asked what had made the difference in such a close match, Keble captain Sam Hornby was quick to emphasise that the victory was the result of “a fantastic team effort”, adding: “we’ve had a few tough defeats over the season, but this makes up for all of them – it’s the best possible finish”.
After Varsity glory last term against Cambridge, last week the women’s Blues rugby sevens team pitted themselves against universities from around the country in the shorter version of the game. It was an early start for OUWRFC but that didn’t dampen spirits as they headed to Hinckley RFC in confident mood for the BUCS sevens championship.
They were drawn in a pool with Coventry, Glamorgan and Loughborough. With kit as bright as the weather OUWRFC certainly lived up to the mantra of look good, play good, opening with victory 25-0 over Coventry. Glamorgan posed a tougher challenge, but OUWRFC bravely fought back from three tries to one down to triumph 17-15. Their final pool match to Loughborough was always going to be an uphill battle; with captain Tatiana Cutts overheard describing it as ‘lambs to the slaughter’. OUWRFC nevertheless played with their heads held high and developed throughout the game, simply surpassed by a superior opposition.
This meant OUWRFC finished second in their pool and faced a semi-final against Birmingham. On this occasion they came out all guns firing, putting down two early tries in quick succession, setting the tone for the rest of the match. The physicality OUWRFC displayed in this game was notably upped and the final score lay at 27-10. The plate final against Exeter on the main pitch promised an exciting denouement to the day. Sadly, OUWRFC were not able to raise their game sufficiently against the National 15s Cup champions and lost 32-0.
The day finished with 9 exhausted, slightly sunburnt, but very happy and proud players. The days top try-scorers were Charlie Brown, Tess Braunerova and Liz Dubois, whilst Ann Tivey was named player of the tournament. Special mention should go to Hannah Winfield who played almost every minute despite battling a chest infection. However, all players rose valiantly to the occasion and were justifiably delighted with this excellent result: finishing 6th out of 16 teams overall.
OUWRFC captain elect Tatiana Cutts was delighted with the team’s achievements: ‘“Aside from a couple of bloody noses, sore heads and impressive t-shirt burns, it was quite the series of achievements: we beat two teams (Glamorgan and Birmingham) to whom we had lost during the 15s season, came 6th out of 16 on our BUCS 7s debut, and I didn’t crash the minibus. A special shout out to Ann, who scored at least 500 tries, to our coach Sean Morris (particularly for his patience and ability to reset dislocated fingers) and to the team: I have never run out with a team that played with more heart than those 8 girls. They were phenomenal.”
Having secured a dominant Varsity Twenty20 win in 2012 under the leadership of Warwickshire 2nd XI member Ben Williams, in 2013 the Men’s Blues are seeking to go two better by overturning Cambridge’s hold on the Varsity 50-over and 4-day fixtures. Led by the vastly experienced Samridh Agarwal, the squad has received an influx of talented freshers, and early season form suggests that this squad could revive OUCC’s dominance of the early 2000s.
The Blues currently sit top of BUCS South having claimed dominant victories over Southampton, Brunel and Aberystwyth to complement a more tensely fought win over Bath. The side has been ably led by Pembroke ‘keeper Sam Westaway, entering his 3rd season with the squad as deputy to Agarwal, who has been delighted with the early season success. He commented, “The great strength of the 2013 squad is undoubtedly in its depth. We’ve had performances from stalwarts such as Sam Agarwal and the returning Dan Pascoe but it has been the form and contribution of younger squad members that has really excited me. Take for example New College’s Sam Cato, who against Aberystwyth was a revelation with both bat and ball”.
Agarwal’s blazing hundred against Brunel sees him top the run scoring chart, where he sits alongside former Tab Gus Kennedy whose aggregate was boosted by back to back half-centuries against Southampton and Aberystwyth. The strange anomaly that is Oxbridge Cricket also provides the Blues with a series of fixtures against the countries strongest club teams, school boy teams and composite XI’s. Teddington Cricket Club, renowned as one of London’s strongest clubs and satisfied by a 140 run thumping of Cambridge’s Blues the day before, visited The Parks in early May.
The Blues rattled through the Teddington top order, reducing them to 104-6 before they scampered to 191 in their 50 overs. In reply, Ben Jeffery launched a solid reply before Worcester’s Tom Chadwick saw the team home to a dominant victory with 38*. The fixture against the nomadic ‘Arabs’ saw former England ODI spinner Alex Loudon blaze a hundred before 1998 Blues Captain Mark Wagh compiled a masterful 180. 370 was plenty enough for the visitors, but not before they were met by force of fresher Matt Winter. The LMH batsmen dispatched the Arab attack to all parts of the Parks, and indeed Oxfordshire, before being cruelly run-out in sight of a deserved century.
However, perhaps the most dominant victory of the season to date was reserved for the Blues’ annual trip to Arundel Castle. Set in the idyllic West Sussex estate, the ground is overlooked by the 11th century stately home of the Duke of Norfolk, and the opposition comes in the form of an XI, bearing the Duke’s name, and containing some of the Sussex leagues best club cricketers and visiting professionals. The Blues fielded first on a bitter spring day, with Keble’s Don Gordon opening up with an accurate and incisive first spell. The spoils were however shared; with Agarwal and Cato also each claiming vital wickets as the Blues took a dominant position. A series of calamitous run outs saw the Duke’s XI declaring at 9-down to set a possibly tricky target of 191 in 45 overs. As it turned out the target was a touch too small, as Ben Jeffery bludgeoned a magnificent unbeaten hundred and Kennedy 78* to see the team home with all 10 wickets still in tact. The 50-over Varsity Match is at Lords Cricket Ground on Saturday of 8th Week. Tickets can be bought on the door. The Twenty20 is at Fenner’s Cricket Ground in Cambridge on Thursday of 9th and the 4-Day Varsity Match begins on July 2nd at Fenner’s Cricket Ground and can be followed on Cricinfo.
PHOTO / Lawrence OP
Saturday of 6th week saw the culmination of this year’s water polo cuppers at the Iffley Road swimming pool. After preliminary matches the week before, the title was to be decided between St Annes, New, Hertford, and LMH, with a third-place play-off between the losers of each semi final.
New triumphed over LMH in the first of the semi finals, leaving Hertford and tournament favourites St Anne’s to battle it out for a place in the final. Anne’s started the brighter of the two and quickly took a one-goal lead. However, Hertford cancelled this out minutes later after a good combination between James Jurkiewicz and Andrej Jocivic. Soon after, Jurkiewicz was extremely unlucky not to double his tally, striking the cross bar twice in quick succession as Hertford built up strong pressure on the Anne’s team. However, thanks largely to the influential Blues player Rhushub Bidd, Anne’s built a 3-1 lead going into the final phase of the game. Water Polo newcomer Harry Jackson rifled in a long-range screamer with 3 minutes left, but it wasn’t enough as Hertford bravely succumbed to defeat.
St Anne’s victory put them into the final against New College. The final was a thrilling affair. Each team traded multiple blows before Sammi Chekroud scored for New, putting them 4-3 up with less than a minute to go. New must have thought it was all over, but Bidd asserted his value to the Anne’s team once more, whipping in a long-range equaliser with less than two seconds left on the clock.
Into extra time and it was New who captured vital possession at the restart. This proved to be crucial as it was in this spell, after some lengthy build up, that Adam Chekroud rose above the Anne’s defence to edge New in front.
Things got worse for Anne’s soon after as there talisman Bidd was ‘wrapped’: ejected from the pool after being sent out three times. This was perhaps the game’s defining moment as New managed to hold onto the ball and secure the title in the most dramatic of fashions. Meanwhile, Hertford secured third place with a 5-4 victory over LMH, Andrej Jocivic stylishly providing the winner.
Whilst New were impressive in victory, the most memorable aspect of the event was the number of novices present in all teams who competed valiantly against more experienced players, in a competition that was largely played in competitive but good spirit.