Cambridge Judo were disappointed to be left empty-handed after an exciting Varsity Match against a strong Oxford team. The event was packed with massive throws and punishing ground-fighting with 28 fights between Men’s and Women’s blues teams, a Men’s B Team and a ‘City’ team of non-students crammed into a single afternoon, and Cambridge can be proud of a truly great effort and many close and exciting contests despite the end result.
Cambridge City got off to a great start, with two crushing wins whipping the travelling Cambridge supporters into a frenzy, but despite a great effort, it was all downhill from there as Cambridge City were outweighed and outclassed by a great display of fighting from the strong Oxford team. Conceding two further matches through absence and inujry, Oxford took the City Team match for the first time in the history of this friendly addition to the University Varsity Match, 5-2.
The Cambridge Men’s B Team were next on the mat with the weight of expectation after four successive victories. However a couple of absences meant this year’s team was relatively inexperienced, and happened to face an exceptionally skilled Oxford B side. Balan Anthonysamy (King’s), Giovanni da Col (Queen’s) and Gabriel Mecklenburg (Girton) put great efforts into their fights, but were beaten by powerful opponents, and B Team Captain Andrew Campell (Robinson) was unlucky to lose a great contest – despite appearing to twist out of the winning throw in mid-air. Token ARU Frenchman Gregory Schmitt reminded Oxford that the match wasn’t over, slamming his opponent into the mat with a massive counter after a nail-biting match. Wilfred Hughes (Churchill) and Emmanuel duo Rob Blackburn and Simon Calcutt fought bravely in their first Varsity Match, but could not reverse the deficit, and Oxford claimed the B Team shield they had hardly seen this decade, the 7-1 scoreline a harsh reflection of the courage and determination shown by the Cambridge fighters.
Oxford have dominated the women’s competition in recent times, but despite losing 4 of last year’s team of 5, Cambridge’s strong new team promised that this year’s Women’s Varsity would be just as close as the two agonising 3-2 losses in the past two years. Megan Jones (Newnham) was caught by a powerful shoulder-throw for ippon, but Alexie Frize-Williams (last year’s Women’s Captain from St John’s) fought through the pain barrier from various injuries to pin her opponent down, with everyone in light blue screaming the trademark Cambridge cry of ‘SQUUEEEEZE’ as the seconds ticked away. Next up was a titanic clash between the Oxford Captain (a BUSA medallist) and Cambridge Women’s Captain Catharina Casper (Corpus Christi). Catharina was eventually defeated after a tight and very high-standard match, but former GB International Sinead Rothwell (St Catharine’s) quickly pulled the match back to two apiece, totally dominating her opponent. This left the intense pressure of a deciding fight on Lisa Kleiminger (Churchill), with the crowd on the edge of their seats. Lisa gave the fight everything, but late into the fight the Oxford judoka produced the seoinage throw of a lifetime to cruelly dash the dreams of Cambridge’s Women and leave them just 3-2 down again. With four of this team here next year, however, Oxford had better not get attached to the women’s Varsity trophy…
Finally, Cambridge’s Men’s Blues stepped up to try and reclaim the trophy they lost last year. This, however, was no easy task, with a new era of Cambridge judoka facing a much heavier Oxford team of veteran black belts. Yueyang Li (Trinity) and Robinson freshers Scott Bolingbroke and Ed Marffy all faced huge and powerful (and BUSA medal-winning) Dan-grade opponents that beat them with ippon scores, leaving former Men’s Captain and President Gary Chandler (Emmanuel) with a crucial match against an old adversary. The two had fought many times before and knew each other’s judo too well, and the match ended in a frustrating stalemate. Men’s Captain Janek Kolodynski (St John’s) was then floored by a powerful throw from an experienced Oxford fighter, effectively winning Oxford the match. Cambridge finished very strongly indeed, with Austrian sensation Philipp Oberhumer (Queen’s) finishing a high-quality match with a delightful uchi-mata throw for ippon, Seb Nadal (Trinity) pulverizing the Oxford President on the ground and Oxford-raised Cambridge President Tom Deacon (King’s) forcing his opponent to submit with a quick and brutal armlock. But these victories were too late, the Cambridge Men were left the wrong side of an incredibly tight 4.5/3.5 scoreline. That the score was so close is a credit to the hard work of a relatively new team facing an incredibly strong Oxford line-up, but this was little consolation to Cambridge as Oxford lifted the Matsudaira cup.
Despite a conspicuous lack of trophies to bring back to Cambridge, every fighter did Cambridge proud by giving their very best on the day and forcing a close fight against a very strong Oxford squad. If the club continues to attract talented new judoka, continues to train hard and continues to develop a strong community spirit, then I have no doubt that Cambridge Judo will fight hard to exact revenge and force Oxford to leave all four trophies behind when they come back up to Cambridge next year.