Lancaster gain their perfect revenge

Brave performance by women's basketball. Photo: Sam Newsome

Brave performance by women's basketball. Photo: Sam Newsome

Lancaster University 157.5
University of York 105.5


It transpires last year’s 115-point humiliation smarted much more than we ever imagined. For twelve months, the sportsmen and women of Lancaster have been licking their wounds, plotting and scheming, counting down to the opportunity to enact delicious revenge. This weekend, they clinically and ruthlessly went about their business, successfully loosening York’s recent stranglehold on the Roses tournament and earning a deserved win.

The 157.5-105.5 scoreline was not unexpected, with many quick to highlight the absence of key personalities in York teams through the exigencies of exams and essay deadlines and, in comparison to the mirrored situation twelve months ago, the White Rose were spared the humiliation many openly feared. Emily Scott, the York Sport President, proclaimed herself delighted that the travelling hordes had reached three figures.

Of course, many believe York should never have had to think in such terms. The cynical on campus will argue that York never had a hope following the unedifying rowing fiasco, which saw Lancaster start the competition with twelve points, and the exam clashes, but Lancaster could only beat the competitors before them. It is time to open a dialogue, put aside the inter-AU pettiness which preceded the action proper and raise the profile of Roses by staging it towards the end of the summer term, away from the congested exam periods. It was refreshing to hear Sam Asfahani, the President-elect, promise something to this effect at the closing ceremony.

For Sue Wynes, the well-liked Lancaster AU President, the weekend was a dream in motion. Under massive pressure to end York’s recent hegemony in the tournament, and not exactly the most popular person in York Sport circles, everything came up in red roses for Wynes. Her teams were empowered by dark flashbacks to last year, motivated by retribution and delivered when demanded, winning all the events they were expected to win and a few more besides. Her committee also delivered a well-organised and successful tournament, continuing the 21st century revival of Roses commenced by York last year – the razzle dazzle, fireworks, cheerleaders and streamers are now firmly part of the scenery.

By contrast, Emily Scott, the commander of York Sport both on and off the field, must be gutted to have missed out on the triumph that had become almost a right for her predecessors. Scott led by example, competing in the football, water polo, skiing and hockey in a personal crusade, but sadly this will be a campaign promise unfulfilled. Let’s hope she is not judged too harshly for the defeat, having restored Varsity to the calendar and steered penniless York Sport through some stormy waters.

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It was a weekend of contrasting emotions for the AU Presidents, with Emily Scott unable to repeat the Roses successes of predecessors Jo Carter and Alex Lacy. Photograph by Sam Newsome.

The writing was on the wall, in truth, after Friday’s programme of fixtures, which were dominated by the Red Rose. A year ago, York had surged from the starting blocks to construct a 50-point lead. The tables were turned here, as Lancaster handed out some embarrassment in the minor Indoor Football matches, an event in which the visitors were severely short-staffed. Thankfully, the coach and car-fulls of established Futsal players arrived in the nick of time to prevent a clean sweep, the men’s firsts winning 4-2.

As expected, York’s biggest club, YUsnow, did the business on the dry slopes at Rossendale but, even by this point, their 10-2 win was an island of delight in a flood of Lancaster victories. The swimming, darts, pool and indoor frisbee all went their way in the evening and York were already downshifting into damage prevention mode.

Under massive pressure to end York’s recent hegemony in the tournament, everything came up in red roses for Sue Wynes. Her teams were motivated by
retribution

Saturday dawned with renewed hope, exemplified by the memorable fightback by the mixed volleyball team in the day’s first event, but it quickly became apparent that York needed a lot more than the trickle of points in order to retain the Carter-James Trophy. The biggest shock came in the fencing, where both the men’s and women’s squads, virtually invincible during the BUCS season, found themselves coping with the unfamiliar sensation of defeat.

While points were collected in the racquet sports – badminton, squash and tennis – they were being shed on a frequent basis elsewhere. And, in another example of how the tide had turned, the football club, who played some of their finest football in years at Roses last summer, had the life sucked out of them by the monsoon conditions which send spectators scampering for shelter late on Saturday afternoon.

The final day started lazily, with Lancaster needing just a dozen or so points to wrap up mathematical victory. They were quickly acquired, with a stirring comeback in the women’s volleyball, gains in the canoe slalom out at Garstang and double wins in the basketball, and a hearty roar of relief went up when it was officially announced, at 1.30pm, that the trophy would be crossing the Pennines.

Immense credit must go to the Rugby Club, however, who picked up a perfect five victories across the weekend, underlining their superiority with some brilliantly inventive play in the seconds and thirds’ matches and nerves of steel in the firsts, which was won by a two-point margin. For many of the lads, it was a fitting end to their UYRUFC careers and a bright end to a season which has tested their patience and commitment.

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Tom Weir scores for York during the rugby firsts’ clash. The final afternoon clean sweep for the UYRUFC was a genuine highlight on an otherwise under-par weekend for York. Photograph by George Lowther.

The closing ceremony, staged before a large and raucous crowd was a drawn-out mix of trophy presentations and dancers with red and black pompoms cavorting to Lady Gaga, the often ribald Twitter feed on the big screen providing splendid light relief.

The York athletes were half-way back across the Pennines by this point, not particularly fussed at watching a group of red-tracksuited officials parade the trophy they had come to heist.

Wynes led the tributes and the chanting, reserving plenty of praise for the army of sportsmen and women who had delivered her 15 minutes of fame. Wynes had scored a ten-minute hat-trick in her women’s football team’s 5-0 win on Saturday – “I like to play my part,” she said.

Michael Payne, the genial Student Union President, was understandably bursting with pride at the outcome of the weekend. “Everything went smoothly, it’s been absolutely brilliant. I’ve seen an awful lot of the sport this weekend and I’ve loved it all.”

For Scott, her voice failing after a weekend of bawling encouragement for her beloved ‘Yorkie’ at the top of her voice, there was nothing but admiration for the White Roses’s defiance against unfavourable odds.

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Sam Asfahani, the York Sport President-elect, wasted little time in promising to return the Carter-James Trophy to York next year. Photograph by Sam Newsome.

“It’s been such a fantastic weekend, everyone will agree. The sport has been of such a high standard. Despite being weakened, there were lots of fantastic performances.”

All that remains is to start planning the comeback in 2011. Asfahani is obviously not someone who’s going to look too kindly on a successful Lancaster raid next time and threw down the gauntlet. “I want a neutral week, with no exams. I want a spectacle, including big games in a proper stadium. We’ll win hands down.” We shall see but, for now, the Carter-James Trophy is back in enemy hands.

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