The University of Nottingham (UoN) clinched the 2015 Varsity Series with hockey victories for both the men’s and ladies’ sides over Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in what was a tense afternoon at Beeston Hockey Club.
Knowing that two wins would seal the Series as well as a 9-0 mini-series whitewash for UoN Hockey over NTU, the Ladies’ side went out to attack in an attempt to replicate the 7-0 win of 2014.
However they were frustrated for large parts of the game with the Trent defence proving too tough to break down, despite UoN spending the majority of the first half camped inside Trent’s 25-yard line.
Maddie Sharp went close twice from tough chances, while Elizabeth-Ann Holmes dragged two short corners inches wide as the green and gold toiled in front of goal.
Harriet Alexander was in the right place to slot home and ensure victory for the ladies
However, with UoN dominating the second half, the breakthrough goal finally came three minutes from time. A short corner resulted in pinball in the NTU box and Harriet Alexander was in the right place to slot home and ensure victory for the ladies.
Their 1-0 result meant that UoN were 10-8 up in the Varsity Series and only one point from overall victory going into the men’s game, with the table tennis Varsity fixture being played at the same time on Jubilee campus.
The men’s game got off to a lively start, with short corners for both sides being saved before Chris Proctor was able to fire past Dan Darby in the UoN goal to give Trent the lead after only eight minutes.
The game remained end-to-end for much of the first half – Ben James going close from two short corners and Proctor rattling a shot against the bar. However it was Proctor who would strike again, jinking his way past three players in the box from a short corner and slotting home to give Trent a 2-0 lead at half-time.
But UoN were to come out for the second half fired up and soon showed the class that won them this year’s BUCS Final. James Gall and Clarke Knowles both narrowly missed before Gall’s short corner was adjudged to have been illegally blocked on the line, resulting in a penalty flick which Olympian Harry Martin lashed past the Trent keeper.
With the UoN men down 2-1 and Trent winning the table tennis, they knew that comeback in the hockey would clinch the series there and then
With the UoN men down 2-1 and NTU winning the table tennis, they knew that comeback in the hockey would clinch the series there and then. The lads immediately stepped up and a burst down the right from Gall, allowing Knowles to set up Jonny Ruiz for a tap in to equalise.
From here on in it was all UoN. The defence of Ben James, Moe Ghandi, Ali Clift and Guy Mills looked impenetrable, allowing the rest of the lads to surge forward. UoN got their third when James countered and was fouled in the D, resulting in a second penalty flick. Martin stepped up again and sent the keeper the wrong way to give UoN a 3-2 lead and complete an unlikely comeback with six minutes to go.
TWO NIL DOWN
FOUR – TWO UP
NOTTS UNI HAVE WON THE CUP!
— UoN Men's Hockey (@NottsUniHC) May 5, 2015
Despite a disallowed Trent goal, the lead never looked in much danger. UoN completed a 4-2 victory as Jonny Wilkinson surged forward on the counter and slipped a pass to Knowles, who duly slotted past the Trent kicking-back who had replaced the keeper in a desperate attempt to force an equaliser.
It was an outstanding second-half performance from the green and gold and a remarkable comeback that left the Trent players shell-shocked at full-time.
Wild celebrations followed the final whistle as the University of Nottingham basked in the glory of a fourth straight Varsity Series win over their noisy neighbours, this time with two events left to play.
Follow live Varsity updates on Twitter with @ImpactVarsity15 – action resumes with Swimming on Wednesday 6 May and Cricket on Friday 5 June.
Images: dgtl Concepts photographer Martin Sylvester