Despite battling until the end, Cambridge slid to a 35-53 defeat in the Varsity showdown with Oxford at St Faith’s School on Sunday.
Both teams played aggressively from the start, with each side scoring from the centre in the first five minutes of the game.
Excellent attacking play by Cambridge under pressure from the Oxford defence ensured near perfect conversion from the centre pass. Cambridge were very much in the game after fifteen minutes of top quality netball, despite trailing 21-28.
The second quarter was even more closely fought. With both teams now settled into the match, players were getting more physical, fighting for every ball.
Laura Spence was putting the Oxford goal-shooter Natalie Redgrave, daughter of Sir Steve Redgrave, under significant pressure in the D. Spence forced a number of balls off the backline and made a particularly impressive clean interception right under the post.
Cambridge kept up with their strong play in bringing the ball up the court. Turnovers were capitalised upon with sharp drives and quick-fire passes from Liz Dalgleish and Georgia Archer-Clowes. The Light Blues were unlucky to lose the quarter by only one lost centre pass.
Nonetheless, spectators were already convinced that both Oxford and Cambridge were
playing their best netball of the year.
Half-time saw a substitution with Emily Coulter tasked with marking the Oxford wing-attack, who had been causing damage in the first half with her speed on and off the circle.
Coulter stepped up to the challenge. Having already competed for Cambridge in athletics, she gave her Oxford counterpart something to worry about with her speed midcourt. Gina Dalgleish and Lara Jackson dominated the attacking circle, frequently leaving the Oxford defence trailing behind with their rotational movement. The home crowd roared with applause as they netted goal after goal from all over the circle.
Even though Oxford continued to increase their lead, Cambridge were doing themselves proud in the last quarter by never giving up. They fought to the end in true CULNC style, eventually losing 35-53.
Despite the 18 point deficit, the score did not truly reflect how closely fought the match was throughout all four quarters. Both Oxford and Cambridge deserve great credit for their performances and the match was a great advertisement for the sport.
Cambridge will certainly look to regroup and wrestle back the Varsity match from Oxford next year.