HOCKEY: It was a good old-fashioned Varsity thriller as Cambridge took home the trophy for the first time in four years.
Last Sunday the hockey Blues stunned Oxford in a thrilling encounter at Southgate to record the first Light Blue win since 2008.
Oxford went ahead three times through captain Adam Jordan, but Cambridge equalised each time before going 4-3 up with 20 minutes to go. The Light Blues then capped off an impressive win with a last minute counter-attack.
The Blues had gone into the match as underdogs, on the back of a 3-year losing streak and facing an experienced Oxford side. Indeed, when Adam Jordan confidently slotted home the first Dark Blue short corner, the huge Cambridge support could have been forgiven for thinking they were in for a repeat of last year’s 5-2 mauling.
The opening passages of play were cagey, but gradually Cambridge began to impose themselves on the game, dominating possession and swiftly moving the ball across the park. Midfield trio Allison, Parkes and Preston ran rings around their Oxford opponents, stringing passes together and linking up well with the forward line.
This pressure had just begun to tell on Oxford’s strained defence when Cambridge were awarded their first short corner of the game. Styles’ drag flick was deflected by skipper Nick Parkes only to hit the body of the Oxford defender on the goal-line, resulting in the awarding of a penalty flick. Will Harrison stepped up to power the ball into the top right corner and Cambridge were level again.
Just as it seemed Cambridge might begin to assert their dominance, Oxford striker Jordan was clattered by Parkes as he bore down on the Cambridge D, resulting in a second Oxford short corner. Jordan duly sent a screamer of a drag flick into the top left corner, putting Oxford ahead as the teams went into half-time.
However, the men in Light Blue made their intent clear minutes after the re-start, Parkes making it 2-2 from close-range, marking the beginning of a four-goal 15-minute period.
Indeed, just as it appeared Cambridge had clawed their way back in, disaster struck. Cairns, imperious in defence until then, gifted the ball to Jordan, who crashed in a well-taken reverse shot to regain the lead. Yet Oxford had barely finished celebrating before the Light Blue support was on its feet again, Salvesen finishing from a Parkes cross to make the score 3-3.
Cambridge enjoyed a spell of dominance, with Cairns, spurred on by his earlier mistake, immense at the back, and Cambridge eventually won a short corner their play deserved. In a cruel twist of fate for the short-corner dependent Dark Blues, Styles’ flick wrong-footed the keeper and nestled in the right side-netting, putting Cambridge ahead for the first time.
Twenty minutes remained, and the Cambridge support had their hearts in their mouths as wave upon wave of Dark Blue attacks hit a dogged defence that frequently had its keeper Morrison to thank for the preservation of a slender lead. Finally, with two minutes to go, Salvesen scored his second on a counter-attack, sparking wild celebrations as he wrapped up a stunning Cambridge victory.
Will Harrison was named Cambridge player of the match, and while Cambridge lifted the Varsity trophy, the real winners were the many hundreds of spectators who witnessed an extraordinary game of hockey that was a credit to both shades of Blue.
Photograph by Amanda Northridge