A windy Saturday, 25th March, the 9.38am train fighting the technological advances of modern transport, pulled in slowly. A stark contrast to the smooth operating Elizabeth line, whose doors are designed to open exactly where the train access points are located and trains which accelerate without effort or jolt.
Next stop, underneath the four-sided clock above the station concourse at Waterloo Station, where according to The Kinks, “Terry meets Julie every Friday night”,
to greet my guest, grab a coffee and watch “people so busy, make me feel dizzy” and then board the 11.20am train to Twickenham via Clapham Junction.
It was the Master’s Charity Day at the Varsity match. The annual games between the rugby clubs of Oxford and Cambridge Universities first played in 1872. How do we know this? Read-on.
William Webb Ellis – credited with creating the game of rugby in 1823 and who won a cricket blue for Oxford was the first inductee to the “Rugby Hall of Fame” as recently as 2006. The first game between the two University clubs involved 20 players from each side. The Oxford wore dark blue and the Cambridge team, pink.
The large Feltmakers’ “tailgate” party outside the Stadium displayed much tweed, some lively red trousers and the Master with the Feltmakers’ gilet, but sadly no pink. In polite company no scrum formed around the delicious and very generous food and drink. Whilst eating, it was good to meet old friends and new guests.
The Master led the “pack” with a game of “heads” and “tails”. A statement is given and should you think correct, hands are placed in a cone shape on head. If false, then the same but at the rear. Leading with the date of the first Varsity game the throng was quickly reduced as those who guessed incorrectly stood aside. The deciding question was not the year the first Varsity red card was shown but “why the 1981 Varsity game was renown (other than the fact it was the centenary game)?”. The reason, it was played with a three to four-inch layer of snow covering the pitch; it had snowed overnight and the snow could not be removed in time for the game.
There are two Varsity games played on the same day, Women’s and Men’s. The Cambridge University women’s team, despite an early 7-0 lead tasted defeat for the first time since 2016 as they went down in the early kick-off to a 31-12 loss against their Oxford counterparts.
The Cambridge women won in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before last year’s meeting between the rivals ended in a first ever draw. Oxford’s win means that overall the head-to-head record is in their favour by a margin of 21-13.
With drinks replenished and form assessed, the Feltmakers’ pack returned to the Stadium for the 3pm kick-off of the Men’s encounter.