By Nick Friend
Durham basked in College Varsity victory for a second successive year. They overcame extraordinary winds to claim a 60-36 triumph over York, with Josephine Butler B securing the win with a 6-1 victory over Langwith in the darts.
After last year’s late drama that saw York mount the most stirring of comebacks before falling just short of a stunning victory of Medinah and Istanbul proportions, this year Durham reached the unassailable 50 mark with six events to spare.
The day was an overwhelming success, with twenty-four fixtures being played across twelve different sports. There was terrific support for both universities with swathes of York students streaming off coaches at Maiden Castle to support their colleges.
The competition actually began with little between the sides. Although St John’s set the tone for Durham with a 12-0 win Halifax College in the mixed lacrosse, victories for Halifax and Goodricke in the women’s rugby and mixed badminton gave York a surprise early lead. Indeed, a stunning late show from the white rose University in the second mixed lacrosse match between John Snow and James College had the visitors threatening to run away with the contest as they opened up a sizeable early gap between the sides.
However, a crucial and hard-fought triumph for Castle in the men’s rugby roused Durham as they went on to restrict their opponents to just five more wins from the remaining nineteen fixtures.
Such was the quality of Durham college sport on show; York had to be at their best in each of their eight overall victories. This was best displayed in the men’s rugby, where Collingwood hammered James College 69-5, thus giving them the biggest margin of victory of the entire day.
With all twelve sports being played in and around Maiden Castle, there was a carnival-like feel about the day. A burger bar, the café and the Maiden Castle bar nourished competitors and supporters alike, whilst Spotify were present to reverberate music onto the outdoor pitches and add to the atmosphere. The energy on the outside pitches wavered somewhat in the afternoon as blustery winds and freezing cold conditions made cheering and supporting increasingly difficult. However, as England kicked off against Ireland in their Six Nations clash – shown live in the Maiden Castle café, the atmosphere at the basketball, volleyball and darts left nothing to be desired. As Chad’s were narrowly beaten by Derwent in the men’s basketball, the fandom in the sports hall bore closer resemblance to that of an American college than that of an English university.
None, though, matched the scenes of jubilation when Butler sealed victory over Langwith with the winning double in the darts to give Durham an unassailable lead with matches yet to finish.
College Sport manager and College Varsity organiser Tom Newman showed his relief and pride at the success of the event afterwards, telling Palatinate:
“I just want to say a huge thank you and congratulations to all of our Durham athletes, there were some exceptional performances across all sports today. York put up an excellent fight and challenged us at every level.
I’m personally really pleased with how the day ran, it went without a hitch and this is testament to Team Durham staff and students who put in so many hours of work to make it all happen.”
Photograph: Rob Law, Venus Loi