By Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero
Another year, another trophy-laden BUCS Big Wednesday. A record-breaking 18 sides qualified for university sport’s showpiece event in Nottingham this year, with 13 winning their national finals. That amounted to eight Championship titles and five Trophy/Vase titles, making this a historic day for Durham sport.
The first cup of the day went to the women’s hockey 2s, who secured the trophy with a commanding 2-1 victory against Premier North B rivals Birmingham. The women’s badminton 1s followed suit, winning 5-3 against hosts Nottingham in their trophy final, while in the tennis both the men’s and women’s 2s triumphed against Imperial and Bath respectively.
Arguably the most impressive cup result came in the men’s rugby vase clash against Hartpury. The second XV raced into a 30-5 lead, only for the Gloucestershire side to cut down the scoreline to 30-26 with four minutes left to play. Despite a late penalty try for Hartpury, the Palatinates held on for a 37-33 win and a deserved league and cup double.
There was even more success for Durham in the Championship finals. The women’s football 1s went into their tie against Northumbria having been crowned Northern Premier champions for the fifth year in a row and boasting a season-long winning streak in both the league and the cup. They maintained that record with a comfortable 2-0 win against their local rivals to lift the BUCS trophy for the second year in succession.
The women’s lacrosse 1s were similarly dominant in their final against Cambridge, winning by a crushing 14-4 scoreline to secure a fourth consecutive National Championship trophy. The women’s table tennis side also humbled their opponents as they ran out 3-0 winners against Nottingham, while the men’s fencing 1s ensured a fine 126-117 victory against Edinburgh. In tennis, meanwhile, the men’s 1s avenged the women’s defeat against Stirling with an 8-4 win.
Even so, it was not quite as straightforward for Durham in the other finals. Women’s basketball produced a classic encounter between Durham and Northumbria, with barely anything to separate the two sides. Northumbria looked like they might produce an upset when they took the lead in the final 18 seconds of the game, but Durham struck back in the dying moments to pull off a memorable 84-83 victory.
But the most nerve-wracking match of the day came in the men’s hockey final, where newly crowned Premier North champions Durham came up against Nottingham Trent, the team they had pipped to first place. The Palatinates drew first blood but Trent equalised in the second half to take the match to penalty flicks. Goalkeeper Ollie Payne was the hero in the shootout, which Durham won 3-1.
Quentin Sloper, Director of Experience Durham, praised the quality throughout Team Durham’s ranks and said the importance of this success could not be overestimated.
“One of our key targets is to be Britain’s Number 1 Team Sport University and we secured that status for the fourth year in succession,” he said. “It’s easy to take success for granted but, in truth, it gets harder each year. We won so many close contests including penalty flicks and tiebreak shoot-outs!
“Our students yet again demonstrated their resilience and ability to deliver under pressure and that is one of the many reasons why we should be celebrating the success. The memories our students have made and the life lessons they have learnt will remain with them for years to come.
“The BUCS Finals constitutes the climax of the season and it was great to see so many alumni and parents supporting our teams. I cannot praise our coaches and support staff enough – they work tirelessly to enable our students to maximise their potential and yesterday yet again proved that the work really does pay off.”
Photograph: Men’s Hockey 1st Team, byJedd Wee