The 2004 Varsity Match (20.6.2004)
Despite our having encountered heavy traffic on the way down from Oxford, Cambridge nonetheless managed to continue the tradition of arriving second...
The morning's singles saw many closely fought games, particularly on the top two lawns - Sam Tudor had an early break to 4-b, setting a leave. Guy promptly hit-in and carried his ball around to 4-b in two turns leaving a rather good reverse DS. Sam missed the leave, and so Guy went round to peg, setting a vertical spread. Unfortunately, the resulting "fat double" (or a ball and a bit according to Guy) was hit by Sam, who then performed a rather competent TP.
Ben Elwell was playing strongly against Mark - but blobbed in rover with his back ball, leaving Mark with everything to play for. He trundled around his 9 hoops, then set a leave, and took the other ball to peg. Ben - slightly fazed and cursing himself for blobbing rover missed again, but Mark failed to run 4-b, leaving Ben with an easy finish.
The Cambridge Captain put up little resistance and was politely crushed by his Oxford counterpart, with an OSL followed by a 12-hoop break, to finish it off.
The other three games were rather scrappier - Jonny narrowly lost to Aaron by two on time - they both had their chances, but Aaron just got the better of Jonny. Paul emerged victorious against Simon with +12, and Mark eventually dispatched Rob by a comfortable 16 points.
After a brief lunch at the 8 Bells public house, the afternoon's doubles competition started. With Cambridge having clinched crucial games in the morning, they went into the afternoon 4-2 up, leaving Oxford with all the work to do in the doubles to try to carry the match.
Again, all the games were close. Stu and Mark had the job of preventing Aaron's ball from getting to 4-b, but the hit-in came too late - the "2-ball-break Master" had squeezed himself around to peg, so Mark dutifully spanked out 12 hoops and pegged him out. The contact leave was pretty good, Sam's ball at peg for 2, and balls in corners 3 and 4, but Sam just rolled out of corner 3 to 1 foot in front of 2 - a very impressive shot. He managed 2 and laid-up for 3. Stu was able to hit in, and make a few hoops whilst dodging the sniper fire of Sam's ball. It all came to grief after a botched hoop approach on 3 gave a hindered swing on partner, and the subsequent fat double was just the opening Sam needed to hit in and polish off the game.
Guy and Simon managed to tonk Ben and Paul, after Guy had worked out which ball was his. Ben's shepherding of Paul was not enough to overcome Guy and Simon's steady play.
Jonny and Mark had a fairly even match against Jon and Rob, and as time was called, the opponents were at rover and rover, Jonny at penult and Mark in a break. He managed to get round to rover under control, looking for the peg-out to clinch the game, but blobbed leaving the opponents with the rather clichéd +1 on time.
The overall result of 6-3 to Cambridge wasn't really indicative of the closely fought nature of the match (which Oxford would have won had it been determined on points!) - there were four games that could easily have gone either way, and Cambridge were lucky to have taken home the trophy. We shall try again next year!
We are all greatful to The Hurlingham Club for once again kindly hosting the Varsity match on their excellent lawns.
Players are listed by team, with handicaps in brackets. An asterisk indicates the team captain.
Oxford 3-6 Cambridge
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