Coming at the end of an academic year for OUQC, Whiteknights was promising to be special in many ways. Hosted by the Reading Rocs, the first team the Chimeras ever played; promising a rematch with our favourite rivals, the Bangor Broken Broomsticks; likely to be the last Quidditch any of us played for months and, most excitingly, the debut of OUQC’s second team, the Oxford Quidlings. We set off, bleary-eyed, on an early train down to Reading.
Pool Play: Reading Rocs 120 – 60* Oxford Quidlings
Oxford’s reputation may have been with the Chimeras, but it was the Quidlings who first represented us at Whiteknights, taking on hosts Reading in the first game of the tournament. For a team assembled at late notice out of the OUQC members who were not amongst the Chimeras, lacking in both substitutes and match experience, everyone was immensely proud of how well the Quidlings began their QUK career. Though Reading always had the upper hand, the Quidlings never let them feel safe in this, scoring three good hoops. In the end, the tactical aspect of beating meant that the Quidlings’ inexperience showed more, but in catching the snitch they ended the games on their own terms, with a very dignified scoreline that made all of OUQC happy.
Pool Play: Radcliffe Chimeras 100 – 110* Bangor Broken Broomsticks
The Chimeras, meanwhile, were both excited and apprehensive to make their mark on the tournament with, hopefully, another victory against the formidable Broken Broomsticks. This game, to this day one of the most exciting matches played in the UK, saw the Chimeras prepare a formidable early assault, and after a few back-and-forth hoops in the early scoring Oxford’s first team established a sixty point lead as their beaters took control of the pitch to give chasers a chance to shine. Complacency, however, can be said to have got the better of the Chimeras, and as the game wore on they surrendered more and more ground, pressing their opponents less and allowing more attempts on their hoops.
With two good shots in quick succession pulling the score back to 100-70 in the Chimeras’ favour, all eyes turned to Ben Morton, the game’s snitch. As he relentlessly fended off Angus Barry, the Chimeras seeker, Bangor’s captain Emily Oughtibridge executed a deft long-shot to pull Bangor up to 80 points, and a snitch-catch away from victory. Few Chimeras even had a chance to react as, seconds later, Bangor seeker Will Johnson shot towards the snitch and ended the game at 100-110*. The Chimeras, stunned by the reversal, were at least glad to have been defeated in such an exciting way and by such loved opponents. As a fifteen-game winning streak crashed down around them, they could only steel themselves to make sure they reached the final, and put things to rights.
Pool Play: Oxford Quidlings 10 – 180 Bangor Broken Broomsticks
(Game ended with snitch uncaught)
Following a few games between the other teams at the tournament, the Quidlings, having seen their mentors humbled by the might of Bangor, prepared themselves to take on the Broken Broomsticks themselves. The effort was valiant, and although it’s fair to say the writing was on the wall from the start, the newer Oxford team once again did themselves proud, keeping Bangor below 200 points in spite of going the whole 45 minutes allocated for games against them and ending without a snitch catch. It’s a sad fact that the ten points they scored were the result of a defensive mishap leading to a Bangor own goal, but the Quidlings nevertheless three times came incredibly close to penetrating to Bangor defence. It was after this game that the Chimeras of 2013 knew their future was truly in safe hands.
Pool Play: Radcliffe Chimeras 140 – 20 Southampton Pirates
(Game ended with snitch uncaught)
If Bangor had caused upsets by unseating the Chimeras, the Southampton Pirates were to cause just as much of a stir with their breakthrough tournament. They were unable to defeat the Chimeras, but ran the clock down respectably against them, with a well-drilled new squad marshalled by the formidable all-rounder and Team UK veteran Dugald Young. The Chimeras initially found it very hard to pull ahead of Southampton, who were already displaying the solid tactics in bludger retention which would later stand out at the BQC. Nevertheless, they were eventually worn down by the more experienced Chimeras, who pulled ahead in the final minutes to a comfortable lead.
Pool Play: Oxford Quidlings 30 – 100* Southampton Pirates
After their fine showing against Bangor, there were hopes that the Quidlings could steal a win against the odds in this match, and in the early minutes it looked like they might do just that, going 10-0 up before slipping to 10-20, but then holding the game at that score for a while. Southampton eventually wore down a vastly under-manned Quidlings roster to establish a solid lead, and although the Quidlings did once more pull back to within range of a snitch-catch victory, it was not to be, with Southampton putting the game beyond the Quidlings reach before taking the snitch for a comfortable win.
Pool Play: Radcliffe Chimeras 60 – 20 Oxford Quidlings
(Game ended with snitch uncaught)
Everyone in OUQC at Whiteknights liked to pretend this was never going to happen, but in the end it had to be: the Chimeras facing their proteges and friends, the Quidlings. It may have seemed inevitable that this was only going to go one way, but in truth, few Chimeras had the heart to really put in their all against players they saw as team-mates, not opponents. The game went to time, and was a low-scoring affair, with the Quidlings once again performing respectably against a team with far more depth and experience.
Pool Play: Reading Rocs 20 – 150* Radcliffe Chimeras
The Quidlings had enjoyed the privilege of opening group play against the hosts, and by lunch time on the second day of the tournament, it was the Chimeras’ lot to play the final group game against the Rocs. Reading found themselves competing for a place in the finals, and the Chimeras knew they had to avoid defeat if they were to ensure they would progress. Reading threatened on several occasions, but by this point in the tournament the Chimeras had come into their stride, eager to send a message to Bangor that they were not going to lose again. They established an early fifty-point lead, and although Reading scored to mitigate the damage in the middle of the game, it was a resurgence that did not last. Ascendant, Oxford’s best quickly dominated the match and after pulling well ahead, ensured victory with a relatively quick snitch grab, courtesy of the team panda, Matty Murrell.
Semi-Final: Radcliffe Chimeras 120 – 40* Southampton Pirates
With an odd number of teams, the game setup saw Bangor get a buy to the final as undefeated in pool play, whilst the second- and third-placed teams competed in a semi-final for the chance to face them for the trophy. Southampton, having given a strong showing before giving in to a Chimera onslaught earlier in the day, had no intention of going down without a fight. Although the Chimeras were set on reaching the final and avenging their defeat against Bangor, Southampton were a difficult obstacle, with tireless end-to-end beating from the indomitable Dugald Young posing a great challenge in spite of the excellent domination of bludger control by the Oxford beaters.
The Chimeras once again proved their strength with the quaffle, however, and wore Southampton down to the point of having an unchallengeable lead. With victory becoming beyond their grasp, Southampton settled for a dignified third place by taking the snitch themselves, and the Chimeras progressed to face Bangor in the final.
Final: Radcliffe Chimeras 180* – 30 Bangor Broken Broomsticks
If the Chimeras felt the nerves in advance of their first match against Bangor, it was nothing to what was going around the team before the final. Captain Angus Barry encouraged everyone to chill and take a moment to calm their nerves, but it was a team on-edge that lined up for ‘Brooms Up’ against what was now the only team to have inflicted defeat upon them. What followed, in spite of a valiant effort from the Broken Broomsticks, was probably the most admirable and dominant performance from a Chimeras team that has ever been seen to date.
A veritable onslaught championed by captain-elect Ash Cooper and keeper John Martin saw a 30-point lead established within a couple of minutes, as the Chimeras sought to prove with a roar that they were not going to be cowed by defeat. Bangor, true to form, never relinquished their grip on the game for a second, and always threatened, pulling three hoops back over the course of the game. Chimera beaters dominated the flow of play throughout, however, and with that freedom their chasers punished their opponents at every opportunity. Although snitch Nicole Stone employed several allies to make ending the game difficult, the Chimeras only pulled further ahead, with the score at 150-30 when Matty Murrell finally managed to dive inside the snitch’s defences to deny Bangor even the consolation of a snitch grab and end the game with Oxford as emphatic champions.
If Highlander had ended with the Chimeras revelling in the surprise of such a breakout onto the UK scene, Whiteknights carried the feeling of knowing we had cemented ourselves a reputation, and proving to ourselves as much as anyone else that we could take a defeat and rally around it to come out stronger. The BQC was at this point firmly on the horizon, and although the Chimeras knew they would have to win there to truly claim to be national champions, Whiteknights brought with it the real feeling of being the force to reckon with in UK Quidditch.
Although the Quidlings had come out of Whiteknights without a victory, the tournament represented valuable playing experience for players such as keeper-captain Matthew Western, who would go on to be vital in the Quidlings team, which shocked everyone (other than OUQC) with a top-eight finish at the BQC. They, too, sould be very proud of themselves.