Oxford Quidlings 130* - 60 Flying Chaucers
It’s not every day that the eyes and ears of the community turn their focus onto teams that lurk around the lower end of the rankings, but this year’s Southern Cup provided a rare opportunity to do just that. With a spot to play at the British Quidditch Cup on the line, the first slot on day two was solely occupied by this highly anticipated match-up that Simon Bidwell himself had coined as ‘bigger then Coca-Cola vs Pepsi, with the potential for it to be a good old fashioned blood-bath.’
Spectators in their hundreds gathered around pitch two to witness what was arguably the greatest game of the weekend as the two teams lined up for the start of the match. On paper, a depleted Kent roster of 8 (with only two female or non-binary players) looked like certain underdogs against a Quidlings side who once upon a time had seen the glory days of the European Quidditch Cup. Interestingly and controversially, both teams decided to take a leaf out of Ash Coopers mad tactics book and play a 1-2-3 formation with 1 keeper, 2 beaters and 3 chasers.
The roars of the crowd echoed across the county as Steve Cockram called for brooms up for these two titans. Despite the immense pressure that this game offered, it was refreshing to see both teams relishing the opportunity to enjoy playing quidditch in front of such a large audience, with great sportsmanship on display. The Quidlings took an early advantage on the scoreboard through plays that were spicier then a chorizo sausage, with Hattie Elvins' experienced mind-set controlling the Quidlings' beater play.
Carrying over three heavy defeats from day one and now being behind on the scoreboard didn’t seem to affect the immense spirit of the Flying Chaucers who were now donning purple bibs instead of the ever-so-popular poncho capes that were on show at BQC 2015. Captain James Gaunt rallied the troops and started crafting various offensive counter-attacks that saw the Chaucers edge ever so closer to the Quidlings' hoops. With pantomime-esque reactions from the crowd for every narrow and not-so-narrow attempt missed – it is rumoured that any low flying aircraft heading towards Southampton Airport had to be diverted that day, due to Kent’s shot accuracy. Eventually, the gap was reduced to 100-60 as Kent started to convert their chances with the support of the crowd providing them with more and more confidence with every possession.
I think it is perfectly justified to say that every person who came on pitch showed valiant displays and would be undermining both team’s efforts to highlight a few key individuals, but for the sake of journalism I’m going to have to do it anyway. Serene Shibli kept a clear mind when the green headband duty fell onto her - following in the footsteps of the infamous Team Ireland star keeper Fran Morris. Matt Baker would have earnt a Blue Peter badge alongside partner Kirsty Lukas for holding threats such as Dan Winter and former Niffler Sam Wainwright at bay, contributing to Kent’s best defensive game of the weekend. On that note, Winter and Wainwright proved to be a double act that showed a lot of chemistry in quaffle play whenever they were on pitch. Mini-Baughn and Mini-Watts showed that talent is well and truly genetic, putting in displays that echoed family pride throughout. Even QuidditchUK President Mel Piper saw some of the action as she had to stop broken Kent mascot Sam Jackson entering the fray in his jeans and crutches in a public display of passion for his team – it was like something out of Braveheart.
With the Chaucer’s bludgers being committed to stopping an oncoming tide of their opponent’s seekers, the Quidlings capitalised on the gaps that opened up in the defence to convert several chances. As the dizzy heights of the match took its toll, Kent pursued Claudio Svaluto despite being 40 points down with Razvan Ditu making a catch that was called no good. The Oxford Quidlings however would put the drama to bed as Christopher Mullender’s towering figure and Mr Tickle-sized limbs caught to end the game. As the final whistle blew, the emotions of this spectacle were infectious. Tears of relief from both Chimeras and Quidlings flooded the field. Golder and Ford understandably exhausted after the rollercoaster they had just been on. Jay Holmes disappointed that the burger van wasn’t showing up till 12. But the highlight of it all – James Gaunt’s widest grin as they shouted back to their team “THAT WAS THE BEST MATCH WE’VE EVER PLAYED IN!”. A wonderful gift from Gaunt’s team on their birthday and an enormous amount of respect won by both teams. Although the scoreline says one thing, quidditch was the real winner at the end of the day and despite not making the cut for BQC this year, I am almost certain that this isn’t the last time we’ll see the Flying Chaucers. After all, not all heroes wear capes – but the people’s champion of Southern Cup 2016 certainly used to.
Article by Tom Ower.