Since its inauguration four years ago, the annual College Varsity against the University of York has rarely disappointed, and this year’s edition was no different. This time around, however, there was an added incentive for a Durham victory.
Having lost the tournament last year at York, the Palatinates were looking for revenge on home soil against their closest rivals. It was an opportunity which they did not pass up. The games began with two women’s football matches on the old crumb as Trevelyan and Collingwood faced Derwent and Langwith respectively. The hill sides put in a strong performance as Trevelyan beat their opponents soundly 4-0 and Collingwood trounced their match 8-1. Both matches were watched on by vocal visiting support, a recurring feature as the day went on.
While Trevelyan and Collingwood made light work of their women’s football games, the volleyball was taking place inside the sports hall. James College recorded a 3-1 victory over St Chad’s in the A encounter, briefly cutting Durham’s lead down to three points, but it proved to be one of the few moments of celebration for York. Indeed, it was the closest York got to Durham all day. As the tournament kicked into gear, so too did Durham.
St Hild & St Bede’s squash players notched an impressive 6-2 win against Vanbrugh in the B game, while both Grey and St Cuthbert’s won their men’s badminton matches comfortably against Goodricke and James 3-1 and 4-0 to put Durham in a strong position overall. York experienced better fortunes in the mixed badminton, in which they won both their fixtures, but a Durham win was looking increasingly likely. Despite only fielding 10 players, Hatfield secured a 1-1 draw against Vanbrugh in the men’s football, a clear sign that this was not the visitors’ day.
The turning point perhaps came in the men’s football A match, as Van Mildert’s footballers took to the old crumb, fresh from winning the Premier title the night before after an unbeaten season. Their quality showed as they stormed into a 4-0 lead against Langwith, but after the restart, the away side improbably snatched three goals in quick succession. A tense finale ensued, but the newly crowned champions held on under pressure.
News of another Durham victory seemed to filter through every few minutes at Maiden Castle. Collingwood routed James 13-3 in the lacrosse match, while Hatfield were equally dominant in their men’s rugby B clash against a tricky Heslington East side, winning 36-12. Meanwhile, in the women’s rugby, combined Chad’s-John’s and Milbut sides comfortably beat their opposition by an aggregate score of 9-1. Durham had won all three of their rugby matches so far, but the fourth was arguably the main event. The men’s showdown between Collingwood and Derwent promised to be a fierce battle, especially as the away side were York’s best-supported college. Collingwood pinned Derwent into their own half in the first period, allowing the York team barely any time on the ball.
When they did have possession, the Derwent faithful chanted “We’ve got the ball!”, and any Collingwood mistakes were met with a large cheer. The visitors fought back from 17-0 down at the break to make it 14-17, but the comeback was duly snuffed out by the hosts. Down to 14 men by the end of the match, Collingwood still managed to score after the 80th-minute mark, making it 27-14 at full-time. By the time the basketball got underway, Durham knew that a win in the About between St Aidan’s and Constantine would secure overall victory. The home side were imperious and already 16-4 up at the end of the first quarter. They cruised to a 60-44 win, and even though Langwith beat Stephenson in the B match, the Palatinates were too far ahead to be caught. All that was left were the formalities at the Student’s Union. St Aidan’s and Josephine Butler’s darts teams completed the rout for Durham, along with the St Hild & St Bede pool players. The trophy was handed over, and Durham had regained the title.
Photograph: Team Durham