When the whistle went to begin the first match – that between James and Derwent – it was the first time that many of the participants had held a lacrosse stick, let alone played competitively. But this lack of experience was utterly overcome by the competitive gusto given by each and every competitor in this hugely enjoyable afternoon of college sport.
James emerged victorious for the third time in the history of this tournament, staged for the past four years, following round robin matches and then a tense final against Halifax in a day in which first team players and those who initially had a good go at holding their sticks backwards played side by side.
Group One saw Vanbrugh, James, Goodricke and Derwent battling it out for places in the final, in which James were undefeated having edged Derwent out 3-1 in the first game. Excellent play by Lacrosse Club President, Andy Chalmers – untroubled by having to use a women’s stick – and goalie Amy Blumsom united a team that was bolstered by fantastic performances from some of the club’s development players: Jackson, Parratt, Washer, Dalliday, Airey and Palmer. Guy Holden, the College’s sports rep, shunned his hockey stick for a lacrosse one for the afternoon, and was a key player for the ultimate champions.
Group Two pitted Alcuin, Langwith and Halifax against each other, each of which were afforded a walkover by Wentworth’s no-show, and saw Halifax just sneak past Alcuin due to goal difference into the final, driven through by fresher Chloe Searle’s infamous goal-scoring ability and the unquenchable enthusiasm of the team.
Vanbrugh conclusively saw off Alcuin 3-0 in the fifth place play off, Derwent claimed third over Langwith, and – with the light dying and temperature dropping – it was time for the final event of the day.
In a shattering, end to end match, James’ Charlie Watkins received a beautiful through ball following a passage of play belying the lack of experience on the team, and finished cooly, putting James ahead. Halifax tried frantically to equalise and were denied only by the ferocious determination of the Swans and an undefeatable Blumsom, leaving the score – after 15 hard-fought minutes – at 1-0. The jubilant celebrations by James encapsulated the spirit of the day.
The quality of lacrosse was – at points – indescribable, with referee Andy Thomas torn between maintaining continuity of play, and calling up some blatant fouls and body tackles. But the atmosphere was glorious and the day highlighted college sport’s best side, as well as the very real and exciting possibility of regular college lacrosse becoming a reality next year.
Dave Washington, College Sport Officer, who should be thrilled with the popularity and competitive spirit of the event, commented: “I’m delighted with how today went and, once again, there was a fantastic atmosphere, with over 100 people down playing – many of whom had never tried lacrosse before.
“The event carried on the success of swimming, rowing and last weekend’s qualifiers, and overall this has been a fantastic term to date and we still have College Varsity against Durham to come in two weeks time. Congratulations to James today, and also thank you to the Lacrosse club for their help in running the event. Well done to everyone involved, and I hope that all the competitors enjoyed it as much as me!”