Hockey: Improved displays not enough to prevent Oxford retaining Varsity crowns

Michael Alhadeff – TCS Sport 12 March 2011

Women’s Team: Oxford 1 Cambridge 1

Oxford once again asserted their dominance over Cambridge in hockey on Tuesday, retaining both Varsity crowns. This came after convincing Dark Blue wins in the men’s and women’s thirds and women’s seconds last month. It will leave Cambridge with much contemplation to do as they try to work out how to overturn the Old Enemy next year.

The blazing sunshine at Southgate Hockey Club seemed to bring hope for both sets of Light Blues squad as they attempted to turn the tide of recent seasons. The women were first to meet the challenge of Oxford as they tried to end a six year wait to regain the Varsity crown.

In a very competitive match, they came so close to getting their hands on the silverware. The defining moment came towards the end of the match when Anand could only blaze over when faced with an on rushing keeper. The agony amongst the Cambridge supporters was palpable.

In truth, Anand had good game; moments earlier a solo dribble nearly opened up the Oxford defence – another sign of how strongly Cambridge ended the game.

Oxford had started the stronger of the two sides, gradually building pressure with good ball possession. They were rewarded with the first goal of the match as lax Cambridge defending allowed them to get in and score. Cambridge, though determined to avoid another Varsity defeat, fought to get back in the match. After a couple of short corners failed to pay off, they finally made one count as Elder finished a nice set piece off.

From then on, the teams went toe-to-toe, with both having chances in the second half to secure victory. Ultimately, Cambridge were left to rue the miss by Anand.

Men’s Team: Oxford 5 Cambridge 2

By contrast, in the men’s Varsity, Oxford secured a comfortable victory to complete a hat-trick of wins over the Light Blues. Despite an even first twenty minutes in which Cambridge’s Jackson had cancelled out Oxford’s opener with a penalty, Oxford comfortably dominated the game thereafter, stretching Cambridge and scoring three times in quick succession. Two of their goals came from short corners, as Oxford mixed power and precision to slam the ball past the keeper. Evans then showed good reflexes to deflect the ball in from a powerful drive. It left Cambridge with a mountain to climb to get anything out of the match.

While this proved too tough to surmount, they showed admirable spirit to keep the match competitive in the second half. With the result a formality, there was less goal mouth action as the teams scored one apiece.

These results confirmed Oxford’s dominance in hockey, but in both matches Cambridge showed glimpses that Oxford will find it tough to maintain their stranglehold next year.

Michael Alhadeff – TCS Sport