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Men’s Varsity 2018

Arriving at The RAC after a strong season which saw the Men’s Blues maintain their position in the top echelon of university squash, and having performed a complete whitewash of Cambridge in the previous year’s Varsity match, the Oxford first team were in high spirits.

Kicking off the proceedings were Tim Delport at sixth string and Jack Roddan at fifth string. Both players were new to the team this season and had a tough task to start the team off on the right foot. Despite showing signs of a fightback, Tim eventually lost 3-0 to the more consistent player. Jack’s opponent was clearly up for the match, taking control and attacking from the go and the pressure was ultimately too much to resist, with Jack also falling to a 3-0 defeat.

Joe Bolt stepped up at fourth string knowing that a win would level the match. Although Joe has been a familiar face at OUSRC, this was to be his first blue. Determined to earn his blue in style, Joe played the powerful, attacking squash that has become his trademark over the years, and, despite a momentary loss of concentration in the third, Joe took the match 3-1.

At third string was fresher Joe Sibley who, after a typically slow start that saw him close to defeat, turned things around with a 9-0 win in the third. Drawing the match out to a fifth and final game, Joe’s opponent suffered a blood injury, resulting in a lengthy stoppage of play. Despite this, Joe managed to maintain his concentration and won the match 10-8 in the fifth, saving a few match balls along the way.

With Oxford now 2-1 up, Tom Paine, one of the squad’s more senior members, was on court to earn his fourth blue and attempt to secure the match for Oxford. After a somewhat unsteady start in the first, Tom drew on his experience to take the next two games in his typical understated yet effective style, forcing his opponents into mistakes. The next two games saw his opponent reduce the errors and force Tom to pull out all the stops, with both players playing some exceptional squash. In the end, the occasion was too much for Tom, and his legs didn’t have quite enough for him to take the fifth.

At first string, captain Alex Roberts knew it would be a tough ask, coming into the match with a nasty ankle injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season. The fairy tale ending for Alex’s fifth and final blue was not to be, and although Alex pushed his opponent all the way, even racing to an 8-1 lead in the first, his body couldn’t hold up and he suffered a 3-0 loss.

A 3-2 loss for Oxford meant the varsity trophy was handed over to Cambridge, leaving the Men’s Blues to look forward to next season. A strong showing in this match, despite having lost two players at the top end of the squad, leaves the Blues with strong hopes for next year’s fixture. All-in-all it was an absolutely fantastic day and OUSRC would like to extend their gratitude to The Royal Automobile Club for hosting the fixture, the club’s sponsors, and all of those who came to support.

Article by Joseph Sibley (Blues Captain 2018/2019)