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A very New kind of rugby
It may not be as historic as Football Cuppers or as well publicised as the Boat Race, but on Tuesday evening the Oxford University Rugby Club held its annual Fancy Dress Mixed Touch Competition at the Iffley Sports Complex. It was a very well attended event, with 13 colleges taking part. Although the inclement weather to begin with may have discouraged some spectators, as well as forcing a move onto the astroturf pitches, it turned out to be a fine evening of touch rugby under the sun.
Predictably, there were varying levels of commitment to the theme of fancy dress on show. On one pitch, a team of Super Mario and Luigi lookalikes took to the field against a medley of cops and robbers, and similarly crazy pairings were seen throughout the evening. To see a team of Smurfs (complete with blue body paint and iconic white hats) surging up the pitch and slinging the ball along the line was somewhat surreal and extremely entertaining. Other notable costume efforts included a school uniform themed affair and a college dressed as the infamous 118 118 duo.
Some colleges did, however, decide to dress up in their respective college rugby strips which was slightly disappointing, but overall this didn’t have an impact on the jovial atmosphere.
Despite this prevailing atmosphere of frivolity, there was still a substantial, almost two foot tall trophy to be won. The semi finals were contested by Balliol versus Worcester and St Hugh’s against New College. New and Balliol progressed to the final and, in a tense, close-fought affair, New College prevailed to claim the rather long-winded title of 2012 Fancy Dress Mixed Touch Competition Champions. There was also a competition for best fancy dress, which was won by the aforementioned Smurfs from Oriel. Jesus College dressed as their namesake through a creative use of bed sheets and tea towels and so clinched second prize.
As a mixed competition, the tournament rules stated that each college should have at least two female members amongst the seven strong team on the pitch. Yet it seemed to me the ratio was significantly higher in most teams, with girls making up around half of the average college squad. This reflected the spirit of inclusivity and the welcoming atmosphere that surrounded the tournament.
However, the OURFC is hoping to go even further in this respect. There are plans in the pipeline to run a program next year targeted at rugby novices and newcomers, in an attempt to increase interest and involvement in rugby at the university. The program would build up to this same tournament in Trinity 2013, playing on its capacity to offer inclusiveness and a bit of outlandish fun, mixed with competitive rugby. The Fancy Dress Mixed Touch Competition certainly seems to have fulfilled these aims in this year’s successful Cuppers. Bring on next year, where hopefully this year’s recalcitrants will enter into the spirit fully and embrace fancy dress.