Roses Handbook: Flashback to Lancaster 2008

Richard de Boltz hates being reminded about it, but the hockey first teamer’s decisive stroke settled one of the tightest and most dramatic Roses tournaments over in Lancaster last year. York’s wafer-thin 124-122 victory was the first away win in six years, secured in the final stages of a weekend that had delivered unpredictability at every turn.

AU President Jo Carter led the white rose contingent across the Pennines with ground already to make up following disappointments in the already completed sports a week earlier. Undeterred, a fine Friday witnessed herculean York efforts on the badminton courts, the ski slopes and the golf course and the deficit was quickly erased, although there would be mixed fortunes for the indoor hockey, cricket and rugby sevens teams.

York were brimming with confidence as Saturday dawned, and proceeded to crush the red rose spirit in establishing an 105-87 lead, taking them to within 19 points of a famous victory. Important psychological victories were achieved in the indoor football fixtures, despite a physical approach from the hosts, while the fencing team completed a clean sweep of the points on offer. Played in glorious sunshine, the rugby matches didn’t fail to entertain as hundreds watched on: the men’s firsts drew 10-10, with Lancaster spurning a last-minute conversion under intense pressure.

As Saturday’s sunshine gave way to torrents of rain, York’s charge became bogged down as the rivals traded tit-for-tat blows on Sunday morning. Lancaster won the archery, but York responded in the mixed volleyball to edge ever closer to victory. Despite additional wins in the women’s basketball and men’s seconds hockey, York were labouring over the finish line when disaster struck with defeats in the women’s hockey and football.

Unable to concentrate on the formalities of the traditional croquet fixture, Carter dashed away to take in the men’s hockey, the most pivotal two hours of the weekend. At 4.01pm, courtesy of Boltz’s goal, York finally collected the necessary point, ending the prolonged agony on a day of fluctuating fortunes and unbearable tension. As the crowds ebbed away, they reflected on a truly extraordinary weekend, which had evoked in them sport’s full range of emotions and provided hours of gripping entertainment along the way. In the end, however, there could be only one keeper of the Carter-James trophy, and it was triumphant strains of ‘Yorkshire’ which echoed around the emptying campus.

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