Double Varsity Victories For Water Polo
The Cambridge Men’s and Women’s Water Polo teams settled their arguments with Varsity victories in Oxford.
Away at Oxford’s home ground in a double-deep pool surrounded by a mass of dark side supporters, Cambridge Women’s waterpolo team secured an amazing win to take the Varsity title.
Despite losing three team members for various reasons over the preceding week and half, Cambridge started strongest, with Josie Faulkner swimming for the ball and winning it – as she proceeded to do in every quarter. Cambridge quickly stuck in the first goal courtesy of Anna Sutcliffe; the first of six well-aimed lob-shots over the course of the match, making her by far the highest scorer of the day.
Finishing the first quarter 3-1 up the Light Blues held their two-goal advantage over the next quarter. Oxford put all their energy into the game while the fitter Cambridge side comfortably played at their own pace, looking very much in control. Shortly after half-time the Oxford team were clearly waning with fewer stronger players and dropped the intensity, allowing Cambridge to capitalise. Goals flew in from Becky Hulbert, Fran Brandon, Tamsin Owen and Josie Faulkner, illustrating the strength of the whole squad.
By the final quarter Oxford were flagging still further as the victory was became certain to all the Light Blues. When the final whistle blew the entire squad and coach piled into the water screaming. Cambridge had earned a deserved victory, with the immense amount of training throughout the year paying off.
Building of the women’s success, the Cambridge men showed their heart to snatch victory in the dying moments of the most exciting Varsity match in recent history.
The opening quarters saw tight exchanges, with Oxford claiming the first goal. By half-time Cambridge were 3-2 down despite a great performance from Riccardo Di Pietro and goals from Matija Matijan and Hamish Crichton.
The third quarter saw momentum swing to Oxford, who put away their chances whilst Cambridge missed more than five. 6-4 was the score at the end of the quarter and the Oxford crowd sensed victory.
In the opening play of the final quarter Oxford scored a screamer from 9 metres, extending their lead to three goals with only five minutes remaining. The roar of the Oxford crowd was deafening as it looked sure the trophy would be returning to Oxford legitimately this time.
But they were to be disappointed in the most heart-breaking of fashions. Cambridge clawed back three goals to draw the scores level. First, a penalty earned by Andras Kapuvari was put coolly away by Di Pietro. Then Alexander Davies slotted during a man-up and Matijan bundled in another. With three minutes to go Oxford seemed to have had the life sucked out of them by the Cambridge comeback, but they managed to summon a goal to go 8-7 up.
But Cambridge were not to be undone at the close. With the crowd on their feet, a timeout was called to plot the ultimate comeback. Immediately afterwards the titanic Crichton wrestled off the Oxford centre back, won the man-up and slammed home a quick one-two. The restart saw a squandered Oxford chance, Kapuvari stole and Di Pietro powered up the pool before whipping the ball into Davies who swept the ball into the net.
With 40 seconds on the clock Oxford had one last desperate attempt, but an immense save from man of the match Bruno Frederico gave Cambridge possession with 10 seconds on the clock and the game was sealed.
Wild celebrations ensued from the vocal Cambridge travelling support, while there were tears from many of the dejected Oxford players. The Varsity win is Cambridge’s first in Oxford for a decade.