The annual Durham-York varsity match returned on Sunday 1 March as teams from each university’s colleges competed against one another across 16 sports.
For each sport, each university selected two teams. These A and B teams were scheduled to play one match against either an A or a B team from the other university, with five points awarded for a win in an A match and three awarded for a win in a B match.
The day started at 10 A. M. as James defeated Stephenson after a tie-break in the A match and Derwent defeated St. Mary’s in the B match.
This would have given York a respectable 8-0 lead after the first two matches, had it not been for a mass forfeiture on Durham’s part after seven teams failed to show up.
Basketball A (Van Mildert), basketball B (Josephine Butler), men’s football B (Grey), pool A (St. Cuthbert’s), pool B (Ustinov), squash B (St. Mary’s and Hatfield), tennis A (Grey) and women’s touch rugby B (St. Chad’s and St. John’s) were all cancelled as a result, with York subsequently racing into a 35-0 lead after only an hour’s sport.
Durham were quickly up and running, however, as victories for Castle, St. Cuthbert’s, Van Mildert and St. Aidan’s in lacrosse B, women’s touch rugby B, men’s badminton A and men’s badminton B reduced the deficit to 35-14
Not to be denied, York soon extended their lead with a double for James over Van Mildert with a 19-17 victory in rugby A and a 2-1 win in hockey B. 46-14.
With the B fixture cancelled, tennis A saw York extend their lead further still with another victory for James, this time 3-0 against St. Mary’s, before the remote possibility of a comeback was dangled tantalisingly in front of Durham.
First, Van Mildert won a tiebreak after a 4-4 draw in darts B. This was followed by an emphatic 6-1 win for Collingwood over Halifax in hockey A and a stunning 34-33 defeat of Heslington East by St. Aidan’s in rugby B thanks to a dramatic last-minute try.
With the scores at 51-25, Durham needed as many wins as possible from the remaining fixtures. A narrow 34-32 defeat for Hild Bede in netball B against James was a sign of things to come, however, as a 5-0 thumping of Grey by James in darts A, a 4-1 win for Derwent over Collingwood in women’s football A and a 6-3 win for James over St. Cuthbert’s were enough for York to reach the 65-point mark which guaranteed them victory, even after Collingwood threatened a late riposte with a 2-1 win over Derwent in men’s football A.
Nevertheless, the Palatinates didn’t go down without a fight. Collingwood defeated Derwent 2-1 in men’s football A, Stephenson beat James 3-1 in mixed badminton A and Grey beat Heslington East 10-5 in lacrosse A before 17-0 and 2-1 wins for Castle in lacrosse B and Ustinov in volleyball A determined an overall 76-47 loss.
Alas, as is custom, York reclaimed the varsity trophy on their return to home turf. In 2019, Durham won in Durham with a 65-46, having lost in York 73-55 the previous year after a 94-31 win at home in 2017.
This year’s defeat, therefore, was Durham’s worst since 2016 when, away from home, they lost 69-25. What could have been, had some teams bothered to show up?
Image: Team Durham