York narrowly lost to Durham in the annual College Varsity event last Sunday (24th February). With over 200 York students taking part across twelve sports, and every college except Wentworth represented in at least one sport, it was York’s best ever away performance.
The first fixtures of the day began very early in University terms, with the Volleyball getting going at 10am. These two matches wouldn’t get the day going in a particularly impressive fashion though, as York lost both games. Hes East lost 2-0 in the A Team clash with Durham’s Ustinov College, whilst Halifax suffered the same score line in their clash with John Snow College. This put York 8-0 down by 11am, the scoring system based on five points for an A team win and three for a B team win.
The Squash team earned York’s first points of the day, with the B Team, Vanbrugh, cruising to victory over Trevelyan College. Derwent would lose the A game however, coming up short against Durham’s St Hild & St Bede.
As the morning progressed, the fixtures were coming thick and fast, as were the buses full of York supporters, especially from Derwent. The huge crowds had descended down to the Sports Arena, where they saw James College beat St Cuthbert’s 29-20 in the Netball B game. However, the main event of the morning was Netball’s A game, where Derwent took on St Aidan’s. The away support outnumbered the Durham fans by at least ten to one, and it definitely played a part in spurring Derwent on to a fantastic victory. York’s loudest college spent the entirety game one or two points ahead of St Aidan’s, holding off a determined Durham push to win the game 23-22.
Given the crowd in the Arena, one might have been fooled to think that this was the only game going on. The James College Rugby team were making plenty of noise themselves across the river on the sports field though. Durham are renowned for being one of the top three sporting Universitys in the country, and many of their college players who participated in Varsity feature in their 1st teams at BUCS level. Taking on Grey College, who were vocally very confident prior to the game, many expected James College to struggle in their lunchtime fixture. They did themselves proud though, comfortably dispatching the cocky Durham side 29-12.
The two Women’s Touch Rugby fixtures took place simultaneously, with York losing both. It must be emphasised that Durham have a large Women’s College Rugby setup, whereas York don’t. At the same time, the Men’s Basketball was taking place back in the arena. Josephine Butler College defeated Constantine, whilst Vanbrugh suffered an agonising loss at the hands of St Hilde & St Bede. The final score was 46-45, with Durham winning it in the final seconds, the definition of a buzzer beater.
As the weather became even more glorious, the football fixtures got underway, on Durham’s gorgeous 4G pitch. The Women’s games were played across the pitch in a 7-a-side format; Langwith facing Josephine Butler in the A game, Alcuin taking on St John’s in the B fixture. Both games would go to extra-time, adding some further excitement to the day’s events. Alcuin went on to be victorious, whilst Langwith suffered heartbreak in their penalty shootout. Their game ended 0-0 after extra time, missing several excellent opportunities to take the lead in the second half. As the shootout began, Josephine Butler seemed the more confident, and it would be the case as they won the exciting shootout 3-2. This ensured a ten-point swing in favour of Durham, as the gap between them and York began to grow.
York were always going to struggle in the Lacrosse fixtures, given just how much quality Durham’s University and College teams possess. Nonetheless, they gave a good account of themselves, certainly not making things easier for St Chad’s and Castle Colleges.
This year’s Varsity had six Badminton games, more than any other sport, underlying its importance in the overall points. Vanbrugh and Langwith represented the Men’s teams, James and Constantine the Women’s, with James and Alcuin spearheading the charge in the Mixed games. Two years ago, when Durham last hosted Varsity, the scoring system proved to be controversial. It looked like this was the case this year as well, only for Zac Sheppard to show his class and calmly resolve the matter with Durham’s animated Student Union representatives.
The Derwent fans, or ‘Firm’ as they were becoming more colloquially know, had been calming themselves down after the thrilling Netball tie. They were soon ready to make some noise again though, as the Men’s A Rugby encounter with Van Mildert got underway in the sunshine. It was arguably the standout game of the entire day.
On Durham’s new water-based astro turf pitches, York’s Mixed Hockey team in James College thrashed Collingwood College 5-0, barely given Durham’s best side a sniff on goal.
With Rugby often getting a significant amount of focus at Roses, Football took centre-stage in the finale events of Varsity. Vanbrugh College took on Durham’s Hatfield College in the B game, which turned out to be a complete demolition job. They were 2-0 up at half-time, but continued to punish Hatfield’s poor defensive, rounding off an emphatic 5-0 victory with a goal from 60 yards out. Regardless of whether it was a B fixture or not, this was York’s most dominant performance of the day.
Derwent entered the field straight after, desperate to emulate the performance of their bitter College football rivals. Collingwood were their opponents, who found themselves 1-0 down after just two minutes. Like their fellow Durham side Hatfield, Collingwood didn’t come into the game whatsoever, scoring a consolation goal two minutes from time as they lost 3-1 to Derwent.
Durham were slightly ahead as the action on the Maiden Castle Campus finished, and the focus turned to the iconic Student Union, looking over the River Tyne. The Darts and Pool teams gave everything to try and pull off an incredible comeback, but just fell short. However, York’s competitors could return back to Heslington with the pride of being the most successful away Varsity side ever.
York Sport Union President Zac Sheppard said: “Unfortunately we had to hand the trophy over to Durham. However, we came closer than ever to winning in Durham, only losing out on the final Darts and Pool fixture. We also brought the biggest ever away attendance.”
Many of those who participated in this years College Varsity will be featuring in Roses, which York host at the start of May. Hopefully, they can take positives from our many excellent performances in Durham, and use them to ensure the Black and Gold are victorious in their annual battle with Lancaster.