by Louisa Boddy
Following the fantastic efforts of both the men’s and women’s hockey sides to earn their place in the finals of the highly competitive BUCS competition, Durham University Hockey Club set off to Sheffield with dreams of doing the ‘Durham Double’.
Standing between the Palatinates and gold were two top premiership sides, Exeter and Birmingham, whose impressive line-ups would require Durham to perform at the top of their game in order to take home victory.
The highly-anticipated day delivered everything it had promised, with the dedicated Durham supporters travelling down in force to witness what was to be a fantastic day of top-class hockey.
It was the men’s side who kick-started Durham’s campaign in a nail-biting encounter, with a display of skill and determination on the part of both university teams.
Exeter became the first to stamp their mark on the game, taking the lead against the Palatinates after a period of evenly contested play.
Durham, however, were hot on their trail, and their efforts were duly awarded with a penalty flick, which Daniel Coultas fired into the top corner of the net with style.
After Exeter regained their lead, the teams departed the pitch for half-time with Durham trailing just two goals to one.
Again it was Exeter who kicked off the scoring in the second half, extending their lead to 3-1 with one player’s hat-trick.
Nevertheless, in true Durham come-back style, Coultas swiftly levelled the scoreline to 3-3, with his own impressive goal-trio, sinking two trademark drag-flicks from penalty corners.
With just 5 minutes remaining, it was Exeter who netted the deciding goal to clinch victory for the south, meaning a valiant Durham side had to settle for silver.
Although the boys are disappointed with the outcome in a game which could have gone either way, they were true ambassadors of the University and should be proud of their courageous performance.
After disrupted preparation and a 45 minute delay in start time, Durham’s women were more determined than ever to go one better than their male counterparts, charging out of the blocks from the whistle.
The intent of the determined players was immediately evident, and the Palatinates opened the scoring with a strike from Captain Steph Elliott, which flew past the opposition’s Keeper to take the score to 1-0.
After a display of strong defending, coupled with a number of fast-paced counter attacks, Durham’s efforts were rewarded again, when Sophie Davies stroked the ball past the keeper from a penalty-corner rebound, to extend the lead.
The score remained 2-0 when the whistle blew for half time, but Durham knew that the game was far from over.
As anticipated, an invigorated Birmingham side re-emerged from the half-time break, with the clear intention of retaining the title from the previous two years, meaning Durham struggled to assert any dominance.
The half was a defensive affair for the Palatinates, who demonstrated an impressive display of defending to prevent the Birmingham side, awash with international players, from capitalising on their attacks.
The enormous efforts on the part of the Durham cohort to absorb the pressure took their toll, and Durham were the recipients of three yellow cards, and therefore three periods with just ten players on the pitch.
However, it was only upon the award of a controversial Birmingham penalty-corner that the Palatinates cracked, when a powerful effort from the top of the circle narrowed the scoreline to 2-1.
The nerve-racking game finally came to an end at 2-1, leaving an elated, yet exhausted Durham side with highly deserved gold medal.
It was a memorable day for Durham University Hockey Club who came away from a historic occasion with mixed success.
The Palatinate Army and their supporters were a credit to Durham University and should be proud of their achievements.
Durham will be looking to go one better next year, returning with determined force to clinch double gold!