A water-logged 22 acres threatened, but ultimately failed to tarnish, what proved to be an embarassingly successful afternoon for the University of York in the second ever Varsity Tournament. After the 56-17 demolition of local rivals York St. Johns, it would seem that the White Rose Varsity Trophy is destined to remain in the AU trophy cabinet for a long time to come.
The eighteen points missing from the final score sheet as a result of the football fixtures having to be cancelled are likely to have been of greater concern to a York St. John team who dominated the football events at last year’s tournament. But what York St. John’s lost in consolation, the event itself gained in atmosphere. The seventy or so footballers, no longer able to participate, provided an audience that contributed to an atmosphere that will surely ensure that the tournament becomes a permanent fixture in the winter sports calendar. It is for this reason that AU president Nik Engineer believes the cancelled fixtures to have been a “blessing in disguise.”
The original idea behind the White Rose Varsity competition was to provide a smaller-scale winter warm-up fixture to the biggest event of the sporting year – the Roses against Lancaster in May. But whilst not yet in a position to rival the Roses for prestige, the spirit in which the event was conducted this year, and the organisation and enthusiasm that went into the event, suggest that it may well be earning a greater significance.
The day’s proceedings began with an unlikely drama, with the women’s basketball side slipping to defeat in the final quarter of what for the majority of the game was an evenly contested game. This proved however to be something of an aberration, as York’s oldest University’s athletes soon found the form that made them firm favourites going into the event.
The overall victory in the competition was, for Nik Engineer, outweighed in importance by the spirit and enthusiasm of the participants. Though conceding that the cancelled fixtures were “a crying shame”, they did not detract from the success of the occasion.
When asked of the likelihood of the fixtures being rearranged, the AU President replied that there was “little we could do, as there simply isn’t the time”. Ultimately, the cancelled fixtures mattered little, and given the ruckus that marred last year’s footballing fixtures, their cancellation may even have enhanced the atmosphere and spirit of a fixture that demonstrated the unity and sporting rivalry between the two universities of York.
The highlight of the afternoon was the thrilling First Eleven rugby encounter which saw an 11-10 victory for the home side. York opened the scoring with a successful kick between the posts. The two well matched teams cancelled each other out until with ten minutes remaining of the first half York St John conceded other penalty two metres from the line. This time the home side opted for the scrum and the forwards made good ground and released the backs who spread the ball and Rob Milner was able to hit a gap in the York St John defence and cross the line.
York St John came out fighting for the second half, but it was the home side who created early chances with the kick and chase tactic being used on several occasions.
The University of York side were clearly up for the game and continued to play their attacking style of rugby and were ultimately rewarded with a deserved victory.
York University faired similarly well in the hockey fixtures. The day started with a surprise 1-0 win for the Women’s 2nd, who having struggled this season, showed the grit and determination they are hoping to take into Roses. The women’s firsts also triumphed after a very close and tense match and finally triumphed 3-2. After a convincing win last year in Varsity, the Men’s 1st had to work hard to win 3-2, leaving the Hockey Club with a clean sweep.
The home outfit were unlucky not to continue their success in the women’s basketball however. York University had played York St. Johns twice in the regular BUSA season and lost both games, so the team was looking forward to win the friendly match.
Several players for the York St. Johns team also train with the York University team and play with them for Leeds League matches, so the two teams know each other well and know their strengths and weaknesses. After a closely contested game, York St. Johns won the game 57-39. The men’s side had better luck. Missing three of their regular starting five due to injury, York Uni came out with a bit of a slow start, but led by starters Sam Change and Rich Webb, the team fought back with fast-break baskets and solid perimeter shooting by Chang, and dunks and blocks from Webb saw an eventual 74-51 victory for the home side. Mexican point guard – Conor Douglas – logged all 40 minutes of the win.
As expected, the volleyball outfit continued in a similar vein, seeing a straight forward win for both the York University teams. The men’s and women’s team won 3-0 against their York St. John’s counterparts adding 6 points to the overall tournament score
By Sam Cartwright