Easter Round Up: Boat Race part-one despair amid glory in Fencing and Lacrosse

Nick Butler 25 March 2013

In a mixed start to Cambridge’s Easter sporting season, the high of double gold on BUCS’s inaugural ‘Super Wednesday’ was followed by the low of a 4-0 defeat at the Women’s and Lightweights Boat Races.

With the Rowing moved from Henley to Eton Dorney at short notice due to the bad weather, the Light-Blues were hoping that the experience of three returning crew members – Fay Sandford, Stroke Holly Game and Bow Caroline Reid – would be enough to ensure a successful title defence. Yet from the moment Oxford’s reserve crew Osiris defeated the Cambridge second boat Blondie in the opening encounter the stage was set for an afternoon of Dark-Blue domination.

In the Lightweight Men’s race Oxford took the lead at halfway and edged clear for a comfortable victory, while in the Women’s equivalent they won by 20 seconds and were so confident that they were oblivious to the fact that they had crossed the finish line and carried on for an extra 25 metres. In the Heavyweight showdown, Cambridge took the early lead and led by half a length at the quarter-way point only for their opponents to come fighting back. Keeping a formidable pace of 35 strokes per minute Oxford took the lead after halfway and eventually won by one and three-quarter lengths.

Oxford unsurprisingly won the Francombe Cup for best overall team and secured only the third clean-sweep in the events 29 year history, (and Oxford’s second after earlier doing so in 2002). Attention now turns to the Men’s Boat Race on Easter Sunday with Cambridge hoping to defend the title they won in such dramatic circumstances last year.

If the Men’s crew need to look somewhere other than Eton Dorney for inspiration, the Cambridge Women’s Lacrosse team would be a good place to find it, after the Blues recovered from the agony of a surprise Varsity defeat last month to brilliantly defend their BUCS Championship title with a 7-4 win over Durham.

The inaugural BUCS ‘Super Wednesday’ saw 14 different sports descend on Leeds for 25 Championship finals marking the culmination of two terms of top-level student sport. Although the distraction of Varsity matches has meant that Cambridge’s BUCS focus is somewhat less than other universities their performances have been nonetheless impressive with three teams making finals amid a host of other near-misses.

After earlier winning the Southern Premier Title, the Lacrosse girls had battled past Newcastle and last year’s runners-up Birmingham before taking on Northern Premier Champions Durham. After trailing early on, Cambridge took a 4-2 lead only to be pegged back by resilient opponents. Yet two late goals from Captain Anna Pugh as well as 12 saves by player-of-the-match Erin Walters were enough to cap another strong season.

In Fencing Cambridge managed not one but two finalists as both the Men’s and Women’s squad’s qualified to illustrate what must be currently the strongest all-round Blues club. The Women found it one match too many against a formidable Imperial College outfit as they slipped to a narrow 127-117 defeat. However, against the same opponents the men were not to be denied as victories in both the Epee and Foil weapons propelled them to a 129-114 victory.

In the ‘Trophy Tuesday’ matches which preceded the Championship action, the Women’s Lacrosse 2nds fell 14-6 against Nottingham 1sts after excelling to make the final, while the Men’s Football Blues had been due to compete against Nottingham Trent before bad weather ensured a disappointing cancellation.

Elsewhere Cambridge won a bronze medal in the Men’s team event at the BUCS Modern Pentathlon Championships as they build towards April’s Varsity match, while March’s Varsity fixtures produced mixed fortunes in Hockey, Judo, Ice-Hockey and Boxing (see other reports).

The individual performance of the week however came from the Hare and Hounds’s Lewis Lloyd, who after finishing 4th at the UK Inter-counties Championships, was selected to run for the Great Britain Junior team at the World Cross-Country Championships in Poland. In a race won by an Ethiopian who last year reached the Olympic 5,000m final, Lewis came 77th out of 114 starters on a gruelling course to help the British team to ninth place.

As attention now turns to next week’s action, remember that before Easter Sunday’s Boat Race is the Men’s Varsity Football match at Selhurst Park on Saturday at 5:30pm, and be sure to check out TCS online for coverage of the match, as Cambridge chase a repeat of last year’s win.

Nick Butler