Amid balls and looming deadlines, I managed to find time on Saturday 7th May to head down to Abingdon to watch the eagerly awaited tenth annual Varsity American Football match. The Oxford team, known as the Lancers, completely dominated the field, preventing the Cambridge Pythons from scoring any points whatsoever. The final result was an impressive 49-0.

Very different to its British cousin (‘soccer’), American Football (or just Football) has surged in popularity over the last 5 years in Oxford. This win is the cherry on the cake for the Lancers, after their most successful season since University Football was re-founded in 2010. As of Saturday the Lancers had lost the last 3 Varsity Bowls, but it is clear that the current 2016 team has become incredibly accomplished in a short space of time, with training sessions all year round.

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‘The gap between our two clubs has never before been narrower’ stated the President of the Cambridge Pythons.

The game itself was very entertaining, with lots of American fans in the crowd on hand to cheer when something good happened. I admit, I sat for most of the match baffled by the probably-not-so-complicated rules. The teams are much larger than expected both in terms of number and the individual monsters themselves. Although the team includes players of all sizes, it appeared as though most of the team were 6 foot and over. From the start, there was a great atmosphere and a strong sense of support from Oxford’s loyal entourage. The Lancers clearly had the upper hand over the Pythons, with a strong offensive that left the Tabs slithering away. Mid-match, the heavens opened and showered our sweaty Lancers with some much needed rain. The thunder that followed was probably reminiscent of the bollocking that the Pythons had received in the locker room during half-time. In the second half, the Lancers were holding the Pythons by the neck throughout and the game ended without Cambridge scoring a single point.

‘In just a little over 2 hours we’d gone from having never shoed the Tabs, to throwing the entire bloody wardrobe at them. The coaches, the players and our side-line (crowd included) all had a part to play, and everyone played their part to perfection. Our leavers had the perfect end to their time with the team and that alone made all the bruises, aches and injuries worthwhile’ says Sam Smith, a hulking Offensive Tackle, who joined the team back in Michaelmas.

Just from watching the match, the squad undoubtedly loved playing the game and had an enormous sense of comradeship. Behind the spray of champagne, sweat and probably blood of the post-match celebration photo was a team that were dedicated and affable. Unlike the plebeian rowers, who ramble on about their dull regattas and constantly compete for meaningless split times, the Lancers are a united body. Joe ‘Trinity’ Barker (there’s also one from LMH) is a Wide Receiver, and scored an impressive touchdown in the third quarter. ‘I joined the Lancers because American football is always a sport I’ve been interested in and University is probably the only chance I will get to play’ says the towering Joe.

I urge anyone considering rowing to check out the other sports Oxford have to offer rather than make the mistake I made. VERSA wish the Lancers congratulations on their victory, and our deepest commiserations to our rivals from the other place.

 

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