Matches between the winners of Cuppers at Oxford and Cambridge have been organised informally and sporadically for the best part of two decades. It’s only in the last two years though that Super Cuppers has been an official event, St. Catharines, Cambridge winning 3-2 over St. John’s, Oxford last year. Lincoln were the dark blue representatives this time, surprise but worthy winners of Cuppers 2010 who currently sit mid-table two leagues below the JCR Premier. Their opponents Trinity started the match as favourites, leading in Cambridge’s top division and unbeaten since October 2009. As Cambridge Cuppers holders, they were defending a title which had previously eluded them for 37 years.
Playing in a borrowed red strip following the last-minute realisation of a kit clash, the visitors took the lead in the very first minute of the game to silence the enthusiastic Lincoln support. Having pressurised the Lincoln kick-off, Trinity won a free kick on the corner of the box, which found the head of Mike Smith who coolly nodded in at the far post. It took a stunned Lincoln side a while to come to life, but when they did their equaliser came quickly. Nathan Riddell’s long throw was flicked on through a sea of bodies and slid through to the outstretched boot of Sam Townsend, the equaliser coming after 15 minutes’ play.
The first half remained tight, Riddell tormenting the Trinity defence with his tenacious running, and Richard Simmonds looking effective in the middle of the park. Lincoln did have their goalkeeper Peter Gee to thank for a few confident saves but their defence, well marshalled by captain Nick Worsley, just about dealt with lively Trinity forwards Ossie Akushie and Dany Gammall. Trinity’s inability to convert chances and apparent reluctance to shoot continued into the second period and this lack of killer touch was almost their undoing. More so than in the first 45, Lincoln rode their luck at times, Townsend in particular asked put in some crucial tackles as the reassuringly safe hands of Gee were repeatedly called into action. Trinity did have some defending to do themselves though, but confident passing in their half generally saw the threat neutralised. The uneven surface meant neither side were able to cling onto possession for too long and as the match went on still nothing could separate the teams. Trinity used just one of their four available substitutes, but nevertheless looked refreshed as the match went into extra time, and produced a string of chances before eventually scoring with a carbon copy of their opening goal. Exactly 100 minutes after they first took the lead, Jamie Rutt’s delight at heading home another free kick was evident, and a strong compliment to their determined opposition. On top of the game and still creating chances, the victory went the way of the impromptu Reds, with Lincoln running out of answers in an energy-sapping period of extra time.
OUAFC Sabbatical Officer Leon Farr presented the trophy to Trinity captain Matt Smith, who was gracious in his praise of the defeated side. What is becoming a traditional post-match curry was shared by the two teams, summing up a great event in the Oxbridge sporting calendar which was fiercely competitive but always respectful and, dare one say, friendly. The eight teams remaining in Oxford Cuppers have a huge incentive now as the quarterfinals approach, while a lively Lincoln side have work to do in the league to keep up a promotion push, captain Worsley commenting before the game that they are in the process of re-building after many of the strong Cuppers-winning era finished last year. As Trinity keep posting more and more wins on the bounce, they’d be hoping to have a chance to defend this trophy on home soil next season.