Cambridge women celebrate their victoryHelen Richie with permission for Varsity

Last Sunday, Oxford and Cambridge’s men and women’s hockey Blues ventured down to a sunny Southgate Hockey Club in north London to fight for the 124th JMAN Blues Varsity matches. Despite the superb weather, results for Cambridge were mixed; the men’s side lost 1-0 in a tense close-fought game, but the women won 4-0 in a comprehensive victory that reinforced their stellar season.

The men’s sides played first in what promised to be a closely fought game. Oxford came into the match playing in a higher BUCS league and pushing for league promotion, but the Cambridge Blues had recently gone on a ten-game unbeaten streak in their Saturday East League, and were therefore full of confidence.

Oxford perhaps started the match with greater fluency and succeeded in establishing a grip on possession throughout most of the first half. The Dark Blues struggled, however, to translate this control of the ball into clear-cut chances through the first half, often falling short in the face of Cambridge’s backline, and especially the second-year pairing of Obi Callaghan and Will Laird, who were consistently strong throughout the match in defending the dee. Cambridge when on the ball however generally sought to employ a contrasting style of hockey, favouring ‘aerials’ from the defence straight into their forwards. Such a direct breakaway style offered Cambridge some chances, particularly through forward Olly Gedney, who was able to use his previous experience as a centre-half to outwit Oxford defenders to get some shots off. Gedney aside, however, chances overall were sparse, and the first half ended at 0-0.

Similar themes persisted across much of the second half, with Oxford’s possession-based strategy contrasting with Cambridge’s use of the aerial. Oxford continued to lack any bite in attack, with their midfield perhaps playing the safe pass too often. Cambridge by contrast continued to look dangerous on the break, especially through Blues debutants James Southorn and Callum Brown. Such efforts reaped rewards and multiple ‘short corners’: five in total across the second half. Cambridge, however, were unable to challenge the goalkeeper with any of these corners, perhaps lacking an effective routine. At the other end of the pitch, Oxford would not make the same mistake, with Lewis Collins, a former Cambridge undergraduate, scoring with their first (and only) short corner of the game with only ten minutes to play. This ultimately proved a killer blow for Cambridge; in spite of some rallying efforts, and another short corner in the last play of the game, the Light Blues fell short. It was a tough loss to take; in an even game, Oxford’s greater ruthlessness around the goal had made the difference.

Hopes were high nevertheless for the women’s Blues match, with Cambridge coming in as strong favourites, having had an exceptionally strong season, already all but promoted into the National League. Cambridge did not shy away from this expectation and took the attack to Oxford from the first whistle. Oxford immediately struggled to deal with the sheer pace and strength of the Cambridge side, particularly when dealing with Cambridge’s press in defence, and were quick to give away early short corners. Cambridge were clinical with these chances, somewhat in contrast to the men’s side earlier in the day, and scored two of these short corners in the first quarter alone; one through star midfielder Lottie Gill, and another through the highly experienced Ella Hordern. Spirits were high for Cambridge on and off the pitch, and a third goal soon followed only 17 minutes into the match, with fresher Sophie Levy finishing off a flowing passage of Cambridge play.


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After this hectic start, the game somewhat slowed down, as Oxford established somewhat more of a hold over play. Nevertheless, the one-sided nature of the contest continued, with a Cambridge side oozing confidence playing at a fundamentally different level to their opposition at both ends of the pitch. They would only get one more goal however, with forward Caragh Haspel (also one of the women Blues’ seven undergraduate freshers) skilfully deflecting the ball in off another well-oiled short corner. Oxford, by contrast, could offer no real attacking threat at any point; it was apt that their only short corner of the match, in the last few minutes, was single-handedly negated by centre-half Hordern, who had not let a single Oxford attacker past her throughout the match.

The game would finish 4-0 in the waning sunlight, a comprehensive scoreline that if anything could have been more, such was Cambridge’s dominance. The result marked the women Blues’ first back-to-back victories in a Varsity match since 1998 and capped an already stellar season for the women’s Blues under the leadership of Lily Bacon. With many of their players returning next year, an exciting future surely awaits women’s hockey at Cambridge.