"The pair combined to provide a spectacularly well-matched contest"Sophie Denny for Varsity

A golden Friday evening provided the backdrop for this year’s Cuppers final, a close-run contest between Catz and John’s. John’s showed their levels of preparation by warming up comfortably over an hour before kick-off. Catz, by contrast, began proceedings by marching towards the changing rooms, donning full suit and club ties, while wielding flags that would put Dortmund’s ‘Yellow Wall’ to shame. Tensions grew as kick-off neared. By 5pm, the touchlines were lined with an estimated 200-strong crowd, all of whom were in fantastic voice, adding to the spectacle from minute one.

“My blushes, and bank account, were narrowly spared as the ball slammed against the crossbar, bouncing onto the goal-line and out”

John’s spent the first 20 minutes in the ascendancy, with left-winger Dami Fadun and centre-forward Elliot Karaalp offering glimpses of their attacking potency. However, this early dominance steadfastly failed to offer anything more than half-chances. All the while Catz retained a danger on the counter-attack, much of this facilitated by the efforts of Josiah Riley, who seemed to cover every blade of grass. Josiah’s efforts, or rather my tracking of them, was made incredibly difficult due to a combination of a setting sun and the fact that Catz had three players wearing number eight and two with the number five.

Undisturbed by these logistical challenges, Catz grew into the game following the 20-minute mark. After establishing a parity of possession, chances came too. Both sides had opportunities in the latter stages of the half. Unfortunately, a nasty head collision tempered any momentum, leaving the honours even at halftime.

The second half’s early stages were by far the most exhilarating moments of the game. Catz came out flying, enjoying the lion’s share of possession for the first time in the affair. John’s, thanks to the industry of midfielders Lucca Pereira Martins and Benedict Pearce, made sure that the game did not pass them by. The closest either side came was in the 57th minute, with Riley standing over a direct free kick from 35 yards out, one of the various merits of his man-of-the-match performance. I confidently exclaimed to my friend that a goal here would precipitate the purchase of eighteen pints. My blushes, and bank account, were narrowly spared as the ball slammed against the crossbar, bouncing onto the goal-line and out.

“The dichotomy of jubilation and despair illustrated the cruel nature of penalties”

From the 70th onwards, the game became a story of two resolute defences. The efforts of Catz defenders Brandon Childs, who unfortunately came off injured, and James Smith were notable. Simultaneously, tricky winger Harry Benton provided Catz with an outball, allowing his defenders some respite. Similarly, Karaalp, by utilising his speed and strength effectively, won territory for John’s in key moments; constant battling and pressing is a striker’s selfless task during a game in which service is limited. Following this long period of determined defence, the teams left the field of play for full-time with the goalless deadlock intact.

Thirty minutes of extra time tested the fitness and concentration of both teams. This was exacerbated by the declining role of both midfields, as tactical discipline made way for courage and effort. The half-hour ebbed and flowed much the same as the previous 90 minutes. Both teams had their chances but penalties, much like the UL towering over John’s pitches, loomed. 0-0 was the final score, a testament to the efforts of goalkeepers Joe Day and Armand de Lambilly.


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The first eight penalties were coolly dispatched, with the two keepers unable to make another save between them, leaving the score at 4-4. John’s’s fifth penalty was off-target. This proved decisive as Catz’s fifth was slotted home emphatically by someone who, frustratingly for a man trying to keep a record of proceedings, was wearing a number not indicated in the matchday programme. Well done nonetheless, number 49, it was one hell of a spot-kick.

The dichotomy of jubilation and despair illustrated the cruel nature of penalties. Congratulations to Catz, commiserations John’s. The pair combined to provide a spectacularly well-matched contest.