"Oxford’s tally was flattered by the three goals they scored when the game was beyond doubt"james lee

Lacrosse is a sport that was initially played by Native Americans, used by neighbouring tribes to battle it out for supremacy. Each team would consist of up to 1000 men, all chasing after the one ball, with the field stretching for up to three kilometres in each direction.

The lush playing fields of Churchill College - not quite so expansive - played host to this year’s Lacrosse Varsity last Saturday afternoon. Oxford came to town having won last year’s Lacrosse Varsity in a nailbitingly close encounter, and the Light Blues were no doubt hoping to avenge that loss on home soil. However, with Oxford currently mid-table in the BUCS Premier South division and Cambridge holding an equivalent position in the lower Midlands 1A division, Cambridge’s work was certainly cut out for them.

Upon the opening-face-off, the visitors’ on-paper superiority was rapidly transferred onto the field. Oxford showed their intent early, transitioning the ball swiftly from defence to offense with a combination of accurate passes and foot speed. When settled in offence, they moved the ball efficiently, slickly transferring the ball to one another with pinpoint accuracy.

“The home team fought tenaciously all day and were unlucky not to convert more of their chances”

Cambridge, meanwhile, began sluggishly. Despite enjoying a similar amount of possession to their opponents, the home team regularly turned the ball over in midfield and were hesitant in offence, rarely posing an appreciable threat. Their inability to shut down the visitors’ offensive ball movement forced goalkeeper and captain Thomas Chalken into a series of fine saves early in the first quarter. Unfortunately, he could only resist for so long, with one of Oxford’s forwards scything the ball into the net from close range to open their account. A second soon followed in eerily similar fashion, and the Light Blues went into quarter-time with a 2-0 deficit.

The second quarter began with more of the same, with Cambridge’s sedate approach contrasting with Oxford’s silky ball movement. The home team needed a circuit breaker, and they got one five minutes into the quarter in the form of forward (and minor cult-hero) Maseeh Roshan. With the ball edging near the goal-line, and an Oxford defender shaping to take possession of it, Roshan let loose on his unfortunate opponent with a vicious body check, the former ramming his shoulder into the latter’s chest. The ball (plus the defender) spilled over the line, and Cambridge took possession.

The sheer force of the hit seemed to invigorate the home team, and they resumed with renewed aggressiveness. Some more solid hits on offence created a number of genuine chances which Cambridge were unlucky not to convert. Added pressure on defence disrupted Oxford’s ball movement, preventing the margin from growing any larger. The two teams went into half-time with the match evenly poised, the second quarter finishing scoreless.

Cambridge’s defeat follows Oxford’s 9-8 win in last year’s fixture in Oxfordjames lee

The start of the third quarter saw a lift in intensity from both teams and heralded the most entertaining passage of the match. Both teams transitioned the ball well and fought ferociously on both offense and defence. Many chances were created on both sides but were inevitably thwarted by a blend of desperate defending and goalkeeping heroics. The partisan crowd felt it was only a matter of time before the home team would break through, the tension building as three-quarter time approached.

And then it was relieved – by the visitors. After a series of immaculate saves, Chalken was again helpless as Oxford bounced the ball into the net from close range. The score was 3-0, and only the most miraculous of comebacks could have saved them from this point.

Hope was briefly rekindled when a magnificent long-range effort from long-stick midfielder Jack Peacock somehow found the back off the net early in the fourth quarter. The home fans sniffed magic in the air, and the next couple of minutes saw some spirited play from both sides. However, Oxford’s class shone through again, as it had done all day, and they scored the next three goals as the game opened up. The Light Blues, though visibly exhausted, never stopped fighting, claiming a consolation goal on the stroke of full-time.


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The final scoreline was perhaps harsh on the home team, who fought tenaciously all day and were unlucky not to convert more of their chances. Conversely, Oxford’s tally was flattered by the three goals they scored when the game was beyond doubt, although their clinical execution meant they rightly deserved the win.

Cambridge’s defeat follows Oxford’s 9-8 win in last year’s fixture in Oxford. The Light Blues inevitably have already set their sights on next year’s fixture, where they will hope to again represent the University with aplomb.

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