Term was over. Roadtrip plans had been made. A driver had been commandeered. The fledgling Radcliffe Chimeras – at the time just an informal name for what was OUQC’s only team – had so far enjoyed success in best-of-three friendlies against the Reading Rocs and Leicester Lovegoods, but everyone knew that our first competition would be different. Avada Keeledavra and the Holyrood Hippogriffs, both boasting veterans of Team UK from the 2012 Summer Games, were going to be competing, as well as the St Andrews Snidgets and Bangor Broken Broomsticks. For Bangor as well as the Chimeras, Highlander 2013 was to be the breaking out of two new giants of UK Quidditch. The Scottish weather wasn’t up for a weekend of Quidditch, but there was no way that was going to stop any of us. We knew, in the cramped fourteen-hour minibus journey up a great deal of Britain, what the order of games was going to be, and between car games and chatter we tried to work out which way they would all go, and what our chances were.
Pool Play: St Andrews Snidgets 10 – 70* Radcliffe Chimeras
Our first game of Highlander was spent acclimatizing to the kind of mud and cold which can only be found in Scotland. Bludgers slipped out of beaters’ hands, shots went wildly awry, and a St Andrews team dominated by hulking rugby players launching a formidable physical assault against the Chimeras. Fortunately, though we didn’t know it at the time, a physical defensive approach to chasing was to become our fortÃ©, and we had a few behemoths of our own with whom to fight back in a match that was remarkably clean (in the sense of the rules) for being so rough.
The game was close, with scoring not coming easily and the Chimeras being only thirty points up when a snitch-grab ended the game in our favour. We then had to rapidly see to the well-being of Reading’s Tim Lee, our driver, who had been playing for St Andrews and taken a nasty broom to the eye, but he fortunately turned out to be okay.
Pool Play: Bangor Broken Broomsticks 0 – 60 Radcliffe Chimeras
(Game ended with snitch uncaught)
As any long-time member of OUQC knows, this particular game was the beginning of something beautiful. The game itself saw multiple cases of hypothermia, two concussions of the adamantine Emily Oughtibridge, and one of the cutest moments of cross-team solidarity in Quidditch history.
Fiercely fought in what was at times a relentless hailstorm, the scores remained at zero apiece in the early game with a fierce contest in the middle of the pitch for the third bludger. Rapid attacks and counter-attacks were repelled by tenacious tackling and solid defensive beating on both ends, but in the end the Chimeras found themselves pulling ahead with just a little more offensive strength and defensive reliability in their favour. After our sixth hoop, with the weather only worsening and the snitch remaining elusive, Bangor’s acting captain Ben Honey graciously conceded the match to the Chimeras with the score at 60-0. Returning to the showers and heated changing rooms, both teams were already eagerly anticipating our next match, which promised to be potentially as soon as the next day, when the finals would take place.
Pool Play: Avada Keeledavra 40 – 120* Radcliffe Chimeras
With pitch condition deteriorating and a very physical team up against the much more ephemeral, mobile, passing strategy of Avada Keeledavra, this match has earned some recognition for having being played with less grace than Quidditch has now become renown for. Nevertheless, it was a competitive affair, with an early lead on the Chimeras’ part being threatened with a Keele resurgence before a few stoppages in play for rules purposes and, once again, the weather meant the flow of the game was rather interrupted. The Chimeras managed to edge ahead once more, and although Keele managed to sneak in a fourth hoop after some misguided elation when a snitch-grab by Ahmed ‘Akky’ Elgan was deemed illegal, he followed it up with a fine snatch only a few minutes later to leave the Chimeras stunned with having won a solid victory against the team then recognized as the top in the country.
Final: Bangor Broken Broomsticks 40 – 120 Radcliffe Chimeras
(Game ended with snitch uncaught)
Injury and weather having forced drop-outs meant that the Chimeras were denied the chance to play the Holyrood Hippogriffs, and also that the games progressed straight to the final, which would be a rematch with the Bangor Broken Broomsticks. Given how much we’d enjoyed the previous day’s encounter both teams were psyched for this, and the Chimeras weren’t surprised to find just as tough a match in their second encounter with Bangor. A slow start once again lead to the Chimeras grinding out an early lead with an emphasis on beater dominance anchoring a rock-solid defence with brutal counter-attacking from their chasers.
Bangor, however, had clearly recognized that a more powerful assault would be needed to counteract the Chimeras’ defence, and duly responded by driving harder and harder at the Oxford hoops. The game swung back and forth, with the Chimeras extending their lead only for Bangor to tighten the gap again. With no prospect of an imminent snitch-catch, and a serious injury to Bangor’s Lee Marsh meant nobody wanted to risk anything else, and the Broken Broomsticks were unfortunately once again forced to concede a game which they were very much still in.
The Chimeras were, of course, sad that the game had to end in such a messy way, and greatly concerned for the well-being of their fellow player. Nevertheless, feelings of melancholy were overwhelmingly tempered by the knowledge that we’d truly made our mark on UK Quidditch, and that Angus Barry, who had nurtured and moulded OUQC from scratch, had captained his team to lifting the trophy of the first ever UK Quidditch tournament. Everyone on the team was elated by the competitive thrill and communal spirit of the whole weekend, and we were looking forward to doing it all again as soon as we could. And, dare we say, we were pretty damn proud of ourselves.