It was a dark and stormy night on the Downs, the rain came down in torrents. A few hardy souls had ventured out of their warm University Hall bedsits in order to watch arguably Bristol University’s biggest intramural derby. The Bristol fixtures computer had thrown it up, the first and most competitive match of both sides’ seasons. Wills vs UH, rich vs poor, the Malfoys vs the Weasleys, Toffs vs Lads. Intense pre-match rivalry had been ramped up a notch with Wills underhandedly hanging incendiary banners between UH trees. Our trees. It was to provide the perfect pre-match motivation.
The underhand tactics continued as the day went on, with Wills requesting 35 minute halves, as they were ‘tired from the morning’s polo’. No, I kid you not, a genuine request. The alcohol-fuelled fitness levels of UH’s first XI, and the epic battle music flooding through blocks and flats had motivated them, along with Wills’ bare-faced cheek. It was to be their day.
It was indeed, a flying start, the Wills centre-half flying off his feet into a bone-crunching tackle on UH’s star forward, Aaron Ritchie, who bore it with his stoic nature, knowing the goals would come. Penzer, Boggs and Hart began imposing their short-passing game amongst the long grass, creating opportunities for the former Southampton starlet Ritchie, who spurned chance after chance. His time would come.With the first half progressing, Haluk cast crossed the ball eloquently onto the head of Penzer who shot directly onto the woodwork. Unlucky it may have been, but a good leap none the less, and it most certainly had the advancing goalkeeper beaten hands down.
Defensively solid, with Phipps dominating in the air and Thacker elegantly tidying up, UH could focus their efforts on attack. Eventually, good work from Penzer and Boggs combined to find Ritchie, whose low curling shot found the bottom corner, only to be overruled by a Wills linesman who claimed to be ‘unsure of the offside rule’.
In the dying moments before half-time, a flowing team move resulted in a diagonal ball finding Penzer, whose clever dink confounded Wills polo-playing centre-halves, finding Ritchie, who, in the classically composed fashion that only he could manage, rolled the ball into the centre of the waiting goal.
The second half brought changes in personnel, but everyone who donned the black of UH gave their all for their hall. Hart’s potential leg-breaking challenge resulted in a 22-man brawl, which the referee had no control over. Soon, a penalty was awarded to Wills, only moments after UH had been denied one at the other end due to brilliant work up top from front man Penzer, who had been hauled to the ground by Wills’ goalkeeper.
The awarding of the Wills penalty resulted in skipper Thacker roaring ‘Are you having a giraffe!?’ at the referee at the top of his voice, looking and sounding remarkably like the Big Issue seller outside Co-Op. With help from Piaras the referee was forced to revoke the penalty decision, kudos to the Wills play artist who admitted his deceitful act. As the rain poured again on the sodden players, their resolve to defend their goal only hardened as wave after wave of Wills attacks were repelled brilliantly over and over again by Phipps, Lysaght, Willes and Wood.
Eventually, the referee’s metaphorical whistle drew the curtain on a thoroughly deserved and satisfying victory for the UH troopers, with Wills having been vanquished for another year.