Oxford attack the Cambridge goalMaria Rischitor

A flock of Oxford supporters strung themselves along the poolside, making up half the twenty-odd spectators. One by one, East Anglia’s finest in Cambridge Blue shorts filtered out of the changing rooms and deposited themselves in the pool.

Water polo is a contact sport, so a whistle from the referee brought each team over to check that fingernails are regulation length. Oxford 2s lined up for shooting practice as their coach stood behind the goal, gesticulating tactics whilst pulling his jersey nervously over his fingers. Besides the hallowed occasion and history, the result will be instrumental in determining third from fourth in the BUCS Men’s Midlands Tier 2.

The clock struck eight, the pool cleared, and noise calmed. At a piercing whistle the teams charged at each other. Oxford reached the ball first and took the tipoff. A foul led to an Oxford shot, saved by Cambridge. In attack Cambridge fumbled the ball. Oxford defended well but their counterattack came to nothing.

“Besides the hallowed occasion and history, the result will be instrumental in determining third from fourth in the BUCS Men’s Midlands Tier 2.”

Oxford’s attempt at a long pass to Matt Courtis failed, but his pass to Warren Handley led to a long shot and they scored. Cambridge surged from the restart and kept the pressure all the way to the goal to equalise. Cambridge passed optimistically to the wing, pressuring the goal, but a dribble from Chung Chan led to a shot which went wide. A looping Cambridge pass in the danger zone caused one turnover after another and they eventually drew a save from the Oxford keeper. Nothing came of the resulting play, despite a few tense shots either way. Cambridge eventually got the lead through Will Hipsey at the very end of the first quarter.

Oxford took the tipoff but quickly turned over two fouls. They then pressed the Cambridge line, drawing a firm save. Short plays from Oxford challenged the opposition upright to no avail. Cambridge gave away another foul, but the ball was quickly turned over and Cambridge extended their lead to two goals. Cambridge again challenged Oxford’s goal, but the light blues couldn’t create a meaningful chance. Oxford scored decisively on the counterattack to reduce the deficit to just one.

Cambridge won a penalty, but their effort glanced the corner of the goal. They threatened but Oxford remained initially composed. However, they later left Cambridge’s Ryan Ko unmarked and he was rewarded with a goal from short range right before halftime.

Oxford took the tipoff but called a timeout immediately. Restarting, they couldn’t convert a chance and had a defender sinbinned. He returned to the action as Oxford pushed up the pool and were a man up as Cambridge were themselves penalised. They took advantage and scored in the bottom left corner.

Cambridge probed, retreated, recirculated and attempted a shot. Oxford dispossessed Cambridge and dribbled with purpose, but their eventual effort was met by a rising defensive hand and a rapid counter allowed Henry Stuart-Turner to put one beyond the reach of the Oxford goalkeeper. Play then got stuck in the middle, but Oxford managed to thread a wondrous ball beyond Cambridge and into the net. Oxford equalised with an optimistic effort from the wing, but Stuart-Turner responded with a penalty arrowed into the bottom right corner.


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Close plays offered Oxford a chance in front of the Cambridge goal, but it was squandered. Tired players began to string out across the pool, but an ambitious effort from Cambridge offered a brief pause. A Cambridge fumble left the score at 5-6 to them going into the final quarter.

One quarter remaining, eight minutes of work to do. Oxford took possession in their goal mouth and played decisively to create a chance which they converted to make it 6-6. A similar play ended in Oxford bowling the ball cleanly into the Cambridge goal to take the lead. Oxford dominance in the midfield and a lob forward placed them in prime position and they scored to lead 8-6.

“A timeout with the shout of ‘1,2,3 Cambridge’ did little to stop the next goal.”

Cambridge shot aggressively at the top corner but Oxford’s Joey Weinbren rose to the occasion to maintain their lead. A timeout with the shout of “1,2,3 Cambridge” did little to stop the next goal. The ball was lofted out in front of the furthermost Oxonian who lifted it over Cambridge’s Alex Humphrey easily. Cambridge responded by expertly stretching the Oxford defence, centring the ball and scoring to end their six-minute dry spell.

Oxford dominated possession before scoring to restore their three-goal lead. Cambridge enjoyed 30 seconds of possession until they were dispossessed by time. A clinical Oxford attack led to another quick goal. Play hung resolutely around the midfield with 40 seconds to go. Cambridge broke, probing forward to score, but it wasn’t enough to stop the final score of 11-8. Oxford went third in the league meaning Cambridge had to accept fourth, and a long, late, journey home.