Warwick’s canoe polo BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) campaign this year was a tale of mixed fortune. Finishing eleventh overall (out of 31 men’s teams), the A team improved three places on last year’s ranking. The women’s A’s held fast, retaining fourth place and replicating their 2009 performance. In the lower divisions, dogged persistence and occasional flair saw the B team stagger home to a hard fought fifth position, whereas the old boy’s squad, demonstrating discordance and a lack of resolve, somehow managed to snatch second-to-last place in the open league.
Things began promisingly for the A’s after a no-show from Swansea handed them a default 3-0 win. They consolidated this in a further 3-1 victory over Manchester, with two second-half goals from the captain, Richard Clabon, joining the early opener from Matthew Blackmore to secure victory.
However, unable to maintain composure after conceding a goal early in the first half, the A’s suffered a 2-0 defeat, outclassed by Nottingham in their third game. This heralded the start of the decline with a further 2-0 loss to Ascot sealing their relegation to the lower echelons of the competition. Out of the running for a medal, the team appeared to jettison what little shred of cohesion it had previously possessed as a crushing 3-0 schooling from Hallam ruled out a Warwick top ten finish.
Too late, the team mustered some drive and direction, displaying some genuinely skilful, offensive link-up play to again beat Manchester (3-0 this time) in the eleventh/twelfth place playoff. Despite some moments of brilliance, the overwhelming feeling was one of disappointment; Warwick A’s certainly misrepresented their potential this year.
Not so for the Women’s squad. Spurred on by the tireless captaincy of their number eight, Madison Mc’Donald, they launched a string of penetrating attacks. A streak of victories catapulted them to within sight of the podium: against Bangor (4-1), Cambridge (5-0), Newcastle (3-2) and Lancaster (3-0). Notable accolades should be bestowed on Jurgita Jakutyte (a.k.a. ‘The Cannon’) and Jordis Burmeier, whose constant pressure kept the opposition’s defensive zone in a perpetual state of panic.
Unfortunately, in the latter stages of the tournament this aggression began to take its toll, and the Ladies’ defence suffered multiple breakdowns as over-commitment left it open to counter-attack. A 3-0 loss against ULU (United London Universities) placed them in danger of going under. The final nail was hammered home by Nottingham who took a golden goal to win 3-2, leaving our girls, with no games left to play, an admirable fourth place.
In the B league Warwick emerged victorious against Trent (2-0), Southampton (twice, 2-1 and 2-0) and Bristol (5-1). Alas, unable to continue their winning run, a 2-1 golden goal defeat at the hands Cambridge snuffed their chances of a medal. Their fifth place finish, although respectable, was not reflective of their efforts.
The less said about the old boy’s devastating annihilation in the open league the better; suffice to say, it was an embarrassment. Consecutive losses to Nottingham (3-0), Loughborough (4-2) and Durham (4-2) left them deservedly out of the picture. A hollow consolation came in the shape of a default victory in their final game (awarded when the opposition again failed to arrive on time), but this was only enough to spare them the ultimate humiliation of last place.
All in all the outcome was positive. Although each Warwick team was left with points to work on, the foundations (with the exception perhaps of the old boys) appear to be in place for development over the coming year. As far as the parallel-running facial hair competition was concerned, Warwick (the women’s team excepted) were the unequivocal champions; testament, if nothing else, to the testosterone-enriched virility of the Warwick male as compared to his feeble, genetically inferior ‘other university’ counterpart.