Trinity College left victorious from Sunday’s five-way handball final, having trounced their top four rivals.
Handball, a sport in which two teams attempt to score by throwing a ball into the opponents’ goal, is an Olympic discipline, which since 2012 has enjoyed growing popularity in Britain.
The sport has also grown exponentially in Oxford, with the University team reaching the national cup semi-final this year. Hence it was not surprising that this year’s Cuppers competition had the highest turnout in the history of the Handball Club, OUHaC.
During the preliminary matches especially, Trinity and Harris Manchester Colleges performed well. Trinity won three of their four matches, scoring seventeen goals while conceding only four, and Harris Manchester impressed with a particularly physical style of play. In the final match of the group stage, in which these two teams faced each other, Trinity took a 2-1 lead before Harris Manchester scored the equaliser 20 seconds before the end of the match.
These two sides qualified for the semi-finals in first and second position, with St. John’s and their unorthodox style of play pipping Oriel to third place, despite some misfortune with penalties. St. Hilda’s, perhaps nursing their post-college ball hangovers, did not proceed to the semi-finals, but put in some strong performances. Notably, they lost to Harris Manchester in harsh fashion, with a late goal resulting in a 2-1 defeat.
In the following round, Oriel surprised Trinity, and held the lead for long parts of the first semi-final. However, a rousing comeback saw Trinity win 4-3, despite trailing for long stretches. The second match was mostly dominated by Harris Manchester, who defeated St. John’s by a 3-1 margin, but in truth the scoreline flattered John’s—but for a host of missed chances, it could have been five or six.
Ultimately, the two strongest teams deservedly re-encountered each other in the final match, which showed, despite the fact that a majority of the players were beginners at handball, a high level of technical and tactical skill.
The match was a very tight affair, in which Trinity, after appealing a refereeing decision which saw an unusual Harris Manchester goal ruled out, prevailed 3-2 to deservedly win the competition.
They were awarded the Handball Cuppers Trophy by the president of the Oxford University Handball Club, Ciaran Hayes.