Despite winning the hearts of many with his glorious facial expressions and eyebrows, Eric Monkman failed to lead Cambridge University’s Wolfson College team to victory at last night’s University Challenge final. The final saw Oxford’s Balliol College, led by Joey Goldman, beat the Wolfson team 190 points to 140 instead.
This is the first time in four years that a Cambridge college has lost to an Oxford one, with Wolfson having been favourites to win the title throughout this year’s competition too. While both teams and their respective captains put on impressive performances during the tense contest, several mistakes by Monkman allowed Balliol to catch up, despite Wolfson's early lead. Balliol eventually pulled ahead of Wolfson with just five minutes to the end.
Nevertheless, host Jeremy Paxman congratulated the Cambridge team on being runners-up, and assured them that they had been “one of the most entertaining teams in this year’s contest”.
The trophy was presented outside the studio at Cambridge by Stephen Hawking, who made a surprise appearance for only the second time in the show’s 55-year history. The renowned scientist told the students, “I have said in the past that it is not clear whether intelligence has any long term value. Bacteria multiply and flourish without it. But it is one of the most admirable qualities, especially when displayed by such young minds.”
While Balliol may already have triumphed by the time Hawking presented the trophy to them, it was still Monkman’s gleeful reaction to meeting the scientist that re-captured the attention of viewers and fans; some even joked on Twitter that they were jealous of Hawking for having gotten to meet the Wolfson captain.
University Challenge will return to the air in August for a new series.