Varsity Match 2021: A Dark Bluewash
04/05/21: This year's Varsity Match was dominated on court by Oxford, but was a triumph for both sides, who did a fantastic job to get the match played at all and with a full complement of pairs.
In more normal circumstances, the Varsity Match is the culmination of two terms of recruitment, training and match and tournament practice for the Fives players of Oxford and Cambridge. Thie year, however, play at both Iffley Road and the Cambridge sports centre was suspended halfway through the first term of the year back at the end of October and the students have spent most of their year at home; the Oxford courts finally reopened a couple of weeks ago and the Cambridge courts remain closed until May 17th, with only the Magdalene court currently available. To successfully wade through the vast quantity of red tape required to get sign off from both Universities to travel to Eton and play and then to recruit a full 12 pairs for each team was therefore a major triumph for the captains and secretaries of the two clubs.
The atmosphere on Varsity Match day is always vibrant and full of excitement but this year the delight at being able to get together and play at the end of such a frustrating season was both palpable and infectious. The Varsity Match story each year is always dictated to a large extent by the number of returning players from previous years, the number of quality new recruits and the number of players who have played before (and to what level of course). Normally, however, the club on the wrong side of that equation have the opportunity to claw back ground by practising hard, attending tournaments and working to improve the level of the players they have both inherited and recruited. With this opportunity denied to them this year, there was little the Cambridge teams could do against their vastly more experienced Oxford opponents and it is to their credit that all of the Light Blue pairs fought hard and never got downhearted despite the Oxford dominance across the board. There is some light (blue) at the end of the tunnel for the Cambridge men, however, as most if not all of this year's Oxford men's top six will be unavailable next year due to graduating or being on years abroad.
The contrast was even starker in the women's match, with Cambridge having to produce virtually an entire squad in two weeks, having lost the majority of last year's team and having been denied the usual time and opportunity to recruit and train beginners throughout the year. Oxford meanwhile had four of last year's top six returning (it would have been five but for the unfortunate last minute withdrawal through illness of captain Amelia Hepburn) and were further strengthened by the addition of Salopian Sarah Jackman, Cholmeleian Gemma Smith-Bingham and Westminster Agatha Pethers along with a small but especially talented group of beginners. There was plenty of talent in the Cambridge team - a special mention has to be made of Cambridge captain Jessye Tu for putting the team together in such difficult circumstances - and it is very much to be hoped that those involved enjoyed their first taste of Fives and are keen to come back next year and learn how to do it properly.
Sadly, the usual post match dinner was off the menu this year, replaced by pizzas and a picnic by the courts but Pol Roger had come good again with their welcome sponsorship and with OUEFC President Nigel Cox serving up the champagne the afternoon came to a sociable and enjoyable conclusion.
Thanks are due to Eton for hosting the match, to Pol Roger for their sponsorship and to everyone involved for ending a hugely frustrating season on such a high note.
Cambridge University vs Oxford University (Cambridge names first)
1. V.Gudiwala (QE Barnet & St.John’s) & N.Choustikov (City of London & Fitzwilliam) lost to H.Young (Westminster & St.Hilda’s) & O.Denby (Harrow & Hertford) 0-3 (2-12, 0-12, 1-12)
2. A.Clover (Eton & Girton) & T.Xu (St.Olave’s & Jesus) lost to C.Straker (Eton & Exeter) & J.Gordon (Highgate & Keble) 0-3 (1-12, 1-12, 4-12)
3. J.Navani (City of London & Hughes Hall) & D.Huang (Westminster & Pembroke) lost to E.Gosnell (City of London & Lady Margaret Hall) & A.Taylor (Harrow & Magdalen) (1-12, 5-12, 3-12)
Men’s Second Team Match (Penguins vs Peppers):
1. M.Johnson (Ipswich & Emmanuel) & H.Kalaiya (QE Barnet & Clare) lost to S.Chapman (City of London & Wycliffe Hall) & B.Hart (Wolverhampton Grammar School & Kellogg) 0-3 (2-12, 0-12, 0-12)
2. J.Snell (Shrewsbury & Robinson) & A.Butcher (Winchester & St.John’s) lost to H.Barma (Westminster & Mansfield) & J.Green (Berkhamsted & Exeter) 0- 3 (3-12, 3-12, 2-12)
3. C.Griffiths (Williamwood High School & Magdalene) & A.Limonard (Peter Symonds & St.John’s) lost to A.Shirazi (Harrow & Pembroke) & L.Doody (Westminster & Pembroke) 0-3 (1-12, 0-12, 0-12)
1. J.Tu (St.Olave’s & Magdalene) & S-L Yuen (Wycombe Abbey & Girton) lost to M.Briscoe (Highgate & University) & C.Valensise (Highgate & Pembroke) 0-3 (0-12, 1-12, 2-12)
2. J.Ganendra (Wycombe Abbey & Downing) & L.Hurst (Colyton Grammar School & Clare) lost to F.Butler (Berkhamsted & Exeter) & S.Jackman (Shrewsbury & Christ Church) 0-3 (0-12, 1-12, 4-12)
3. A.Knight (Bournemouth School for Girls & Magdalene) & M.Iacovides (Withington Girls’ School & Downing) lost to G.Smith-Bingham (Highgate & St.Edmund Hall) & A.Calderbank (Wycombe Abbey & Oriel) 0-3 (1-12, 0-12, 0-12)
Ladies’ Second Team Match
1. C.Bowman (Uppingham & Anglia Ruskin) & O.Christopher (Runshaw College & Magdalene) lost to I.Barrowcliff (Magdalen College School & Christ Church) & G.Day (Sevenoaks & New) 0-3 (4-12, 5-12, 3-12)
2. L.Gregory (BHASVIC & Corpus Christi) & M.Woods (Aylesbury High School & Corpus Christi) lost to A.Pethers (Westminster & Magdalen) & I.Culhane (Cheltenham Ladies’ College & Worcester) 0-3 (2-12, 2-12, 3-12)
3. P.Kemp (St.Olave’s & Gonville & Caius) & J.Marais (Wimbledon High School & Lucy Cavendish) lost to E.Gilbert (Cheltenham Ladies’ College & St.Catherine’s) & H.Barber (St.Mary’s, Calne & Worcester) 0-3 (1-12, 0-12, 1-12)