The University of Nottingham (UoN) have won the Notts Varsity Series 2018, beating rivals Nottingham Trent (NTU) to over half of the 21 individual points up for grabs. The two institutions competed across a range of sports and disciplines, but the bragging rights were brought to the Green and Gold for a seventh consecutive year when UoN Women’s Futsal secured the crucial 11th series point on Sunday.
The 2018 series kicked-off with Super Wednesday at the David Ross Sports Village (DRSV), with two of these bumper days of student sport action taking place again this year. UoN set about their title defence in expectedly dominant fashion, producing another whitewash of NTU on home soil. The Green and Gold outclassed Trent in all twelve matches, a feat warranting a solitary point in the overall series. Volleyball Women’s produced one of the least surprising results by comfortably beating Trent by 3 games to nil. Club President, Anna Macleod commented on the format of the Super Wednesday event after Volleyball was moved from being a standalone event worth its own series point:
“I wasn’t that happy when I found out about that [Volleyball being moved from a standalone event], I understand why they’re doing it but we work just as hard as every other sport to get a win or to get a result and it seems a bit unfair that we’re not contributing as much but I do understand why they do it.”
— Impact Sport (@ImpactSport) April 25, 2018
NTU were dispatched straightforwardly across the day’s matches, with Dani Ramos and Yolanda King excelling in men’s handball and table tennis respectively and Uni of foiling Trent’s efforts in the karate dojo, fencing, and the pool with victory in swimming and the canoe polo and water polo events. The Hot Pinks were sent home grateful that the thrashing would only see them punished by the loss of one series point, but the misery was unlikely to abate.
Although held separately, Varsity Athletics became a formal part of the series this year as an attachment to the first Super Wednesday event. With UoN taking 10 out of the 11 track races, Hayley Mills produced a blisteringly quick run to win the 100m with ease in one of many excellent displays in front of the crowd at Harvey Hadden Stadium.
Despite it being the first event of the series, UoN’s Super Wednesday victory proved to be an equaliser in terms of the overall series score. Points had been distributed before the series began this year, with UoN Men’s Football declining to play at a closed doors game at Meadow Lane and forfeiting the point to NTU.
UoN effectively gifted points to NTU in another event that is popular for spectators, and might as well have forfeited the point when Muay Thai fighters congregated on King’s Meadow Campus for Thai Boxing’s debut as a standalone Varsity event. The main event of the evening, a president versus president bout pitting UoN’s Rajan Samra against Trent’s Alex Davison, was emblematic of NTU’s 7-1 win in the Varsity Thai Boxing event. Samra put everything he could into the contest and never took a step back, but was simply outmatched by the superior technical fighter.
Indeed, amid UoN’s continual dominance over recent series (they have won every year since NTU retained the trophy in 2011) there has been the odd blotch on their otherwise impeccable sporting prowess. Losses in major events such as basketball and ice hockey, although worth no more points towards the overall series score, have led many to see Trent as having taken the major bragging rights from the most popular and passionate events. One prized jewel missing from the Green and Gold crown was that of ice hockey.
However, the biggest moment of the series for UoN came when they dazzled on the Motorpoint Arena ice to achieve victory in the ice hockey varsity for the first time since 2015. A hat-trick from Ruskin Springer-Hughes and a further goal from captain Joshua Gordon saw the Green and Gold beat their usual teammates from the unified university club, Nottingham Mavericks, creating a night that will live long in the memory of those who were lucky enough to get tickets to the largest varsity outside of the USA.
In 2017, men’s basketball was the one other major victory that was noticeably missed from UoN’s record – and after jubilation in the ice hockey, UoN would return to the Motorpoint to create more memories of what could have been. The women’s outfit were unable to extend their run of six Varsity wins since 2012, as Trent’s Janice Monakana inspired a dominant pink display to win 53-48.
How important is it for a @UoNSport club to have the @UoNSU Sports Officer on their side?@MD_Janiska believes @UoNSU_Sports has been an invaluable member of the squad, as the captain says farewell to the #GreenandGold after five years tonight at the Motorpoint #NottsVarsity pic.twitter.com/K7zlNtVSGr
— Impact Sport (@ImpactSport) May 11, 2018
The men’s team had an equally disappointing night in front of the hoops. Although their last win came in 2015’s Varsity series, expectations were high for a new-look side led by a fresh coach, Mindaugas Janiska, who has proved an inspired appointment since taking over in the summer. Growing up in Soviet-occupied Lithuania, Coach MD has spent time with Leicester Riders and in the USA, but the University of Nottingham represents his first foray into an ambitious coaching career ahead of him. Having lost just one game in a record-breaking season that saw UoN achieve promotion to the top tier of BUCS leagues for the first time, MD’s turnaround had convinced many that they would cap a fantastic season with glory in Varsity.
Trent had been the only team to inflict defeat on UoN since their re-structure, and sadly for the renewed outfit, NTU were to win the rivalry contest yet again and inflict the one low point of their emphatic season. The Green and Gold had trailed by double digits for long periods of the first half, but rallied to take the lead briefly in the fourth quarter before falling 64-58 to their cross-city rivals in the closing moments.
Disappointment in the end for @UoNSport. @MD_Janiska's men succumb to just their second defeat in an otherwise emphatic season. Here are the final stats from this evening: #GreenandGold pic.twitter.com/A1BWLgwVIY
— Impact Sport (@ImpactSport) May 11, 2018
Another crowd-drawing fixture was the squash event, which this year became a dedicated event outside of Super Wednesdays, which proved beneficial to UoN. Playing on the new all-glass court at DRSV, Ben Windle and Tom Bailey were among those who helped secure the point for the home team as soon as possible, with an NTU injury in between their two matches counteracting the away side’s struggle to take Windle and Bailey to five sets. The scoreboard simply reflected the prowess of UoN at the end of the day, however, with no sign of complacency as President Libby Corke and Welsh International Owain Taylor gave UoN a 5-0 victory, and a 5-2 edge in the series overall.
The series champions had previously instilled such dominance by adding to victories in ice hockey and Super Wednesday 1 with success in men’s cricket, who won by 7 wickets, and the series’ second helping of Super Wednesday action. The football forfeit and a similar inability to turn up at Thai boxing left the series finely poised at 2 points apiece when various UoN teams payed a visit to the pink side of the city. Lee Westwood Sports Centre witnessed another whitewash by the Green and Gold with Trent comfortably dispatched across 7 events on home soil. Trent were all of a quiver when their arch-rivals were on target in the archery contest, but UoN really began causing a racket when they ran out 11-5 winners in the tennis having gone 2-0 down at first. In Horseball, UoN were trustworthy equestrians, whilst in ultimate frisbee they proved capable disc jockeys too, winning 2-5 and 4-13 respectively. Trent were unable to bounce back despite a closely-fought battle on the trampolines, and failed to avoid further embarrassment when UoN assured victory with their continued dexterity in women’s, men’s and mixed dodgeball. The final victory of the day came with wheelchair basketball, which with the inclusion of golf as part of Super Wednesday 2 represented the final parts to a faultless regaining of the series lead from which UoN would never relinquish the advantage again.
The title defence became more in doubt as the fixtures came and went, however. The bulk of Trent’s results arrived in the latter half of the series, with key points going the Pinks’ way at Lady Bay in week two, at Beeston Hockey Club and in basketball. Two big days at Lady Bay provided a handful of points for the Green and Gold, but not without mixed emotions as they succumbed to NTU in other major stepping stones towards the title.
After victory in rugby league, UoN’s union outfits endured varied fortunes on a hot Monday afternoon. First outclassed in the men’s game, UoN Men’s went down 55-26 before the women’s team took the Green and Gold one point closer to Varsity victory with an impressive 51-14 triumph against their city rivals. The Wednesday saw a similar pattern, as UoN Men’s Lacrosse succumbed to a second consecutive Notts Varsity defeat whilst the women’s team can be forgiven for not matching 2017’s 21-0 humiliation of NTU with another easy 15-5 win. Their Green and Gold teammates took the honours in an ill-tempered American Football clash, with Trent clearly displeased with the sudden turn of the tides this season. After only ever beating Trent once, this year UoN have taken all four of their meetings in decisive fashion. Ineffectual passing and a misfiring attack from NTU helped a Uni of side under renewed coaching staff romp to a 33-12 final and bring the Varsity trophy home for the first time since its introduction 8 years ago.
That day also saw Uni of fail to pull further ahead in the series as the two hockey points were shared evenly. NTU’s men’s hung on to a 1-0 advantage whilst UoN’s women’s maintained the distance with a 6-0 run out, securing a tenth series point to NTU’s five. UoN needed one more point to win the title, but prolonged celebrations when they made another set of anxious Motorpoint memories in the basketball to send the series right to the final day.
With further points edging NTU’s way in a 39-34 netball loss at DRSV on Sunday, the Pinks were dreaming of a first series win since 2011 when they began preparing for the evening’s two futsal matches. However, UoN quashed their rival’s hopes in appropriate fashion, as the ladies’ team produced a walkover 13-3 win to bring a seventh year of intra-city bragging rights to the University of Nottingham. With a chance to end the series with one more hurrah, the men’s outfit instead saw an initially even contest pulled out of their reach by a classy NTU team – 2-2 at the break but 3-7 by the final whistle.
That also marked the final whistle on the 2018 series, as NTU gave one last reminder of why they had pushed UoN so close this time around. The closely fought character of the second half of the series made for an exciting finale as Trent fought back from further Super Wednesday batterings and the loss of a point they have usually relied upon for bragging rights when UoN dazzled on the ice.
Full Results: Download our Varsity18 Results Poster here.
|Event||Score | UoN-NTU||Overall Series Score | (UoN:NTU)|
|Men’s Football||UoN surrender point to NTU||0:1|
|Super Wednesday 1||24-12||1:1|
|Super Wednesday 2||11-5||3:2|
|Men’s Cricket||UoN win by 7 wickets||4:2|
|M Rugby Union||26-55||6:3|
|W Rugby Union||51-14||7:3|
Featured image courtesy of UoN Sport (https://www.dgtlconcepts.co.uk/)
Article images courtesy of UoN Sport (https://www.dgtlconcepts.co.uk/)
Article image courtesy of Poppy Wickenden.