Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Roses 2012: An experience to remember

Roses 2012 lived up to all the hype as Lancaster University served up a delicious weekend of sporting drama which will live long in the memory of those participating and reporting. Quite simply, the stage could not have been more perfectly set. Lancaster’s brand new £20 million Sports Centre was replete with the finest sports halls, swimming pool, squash courts, you name it. Even better, the balcony on top was the perfect vantage point at which to overlook the pristine rugby pitches. And that’s not to mention he fantastic weather which graced the majority of the tournament.

Before the tournament, I made Lancaster the favourites based upon the fact they were going to enjoy home advantage, which has proved to be so decisive over the years. Before this year, only four times out of 23 away tournaments had York been successful, although two of those came in the last five events. However, York’s slightly superior BUCS ranking – 44th to Lancaster’s 52nd – made it not entirely certain Lancaster would cruise to victory. In the end, apart from a bad start on Friday morning, Lancaster always possessed a comfortable advantage and triumphed 158.5 – 131.5.
The balcony view from Lancaster's new Sports Centre

After my first day in Lancaster, I soon realised why the home team almost always wins. First of all, you as the away team probably have to get up at some ungodly hour in the morning to arrive on time (which makes York’s badminton successes on Friday morning all the more impressive). And unless you want to pay extortionate accommodation expenses, the away clubs are usually forced to sleep in chilly lecture theatres on hard, unwelcoming floors, which even sleeping bags struggle to defend against. Every so often you are woken up by people crashing into the hall after a night out, someone suffering from a giggling fit, or even hiccupping. Regarding nights out, I’ve heard that all the York football teams went out on the Saturday night; no surprise then that they were winless the following day.

Simply put, by 8 o’clock the next morning, getting up and feeling 100% for your next match can be tricky. And even replenishing your lost energy can be a challenge. You are unlikely to have access to such simple provisions as a fridge or microwave, making you almost wholly reliant on pasties from Greggs. What at first seemed to be a brilliant source of food was actually downward dietary spiral. By contrast, the home teams can cook a filling, healthy dinner, stick a bit of Mozart on in the evening to unwind and have a peaceful night’s sleep on their luxurious mattresses in their warm and cosy student homes. OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get my point.
The York women's darts team line up before their epic match

Despite this inherent disadvantage, the quality of some matches we saw over the weekend was incredible. I said after the women’s darts match that it was one of the best atmospheres I had ever reported on, only for that to be bettered by the men’s match straight afterwards. The intense pressure even got to Alex “The Arm” Harrison, who lost his tie, but York eventually triumphed thanks to the heroics of Kris Hilliam. Then on Saturday evening, we had the memorable water polo match where the York fans put the Lancaster fans to shame with some ingenious chants, before leaping into the pool to celebrate with the players. Finally, on Sunday, you could not take your eyes off a brilliant men’s basketball match which York lost by six points, even though Lancaster had already won Roses by that point.

I could go on for ever about how many other great moments there were at Roses this year. Although the result was not what we wanted, it was a pleasure to be involved in the largest, and best, inter-university sports tournament in Europe. If you want to relive all the highs and lows of the tournament and ponder over some magnificent, insightful analysis, look out for York Vision’s special 16-page Roses pullout. Savour it.

You can also read full Roses match reports on York Vision's Roses 2012 page

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