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KCLSU & Societies

Recap: Varsity 2023 

Logo courtesy of KCLSU

Sport Editor Edward Ducker takes a look back at the last Varsity tournament in anticipation of the latest sporting instalment of this 200-year old rivalry.

Varsity 2023 kicked off on Thursday 16 March with the Guy’s Hospital, King’s College Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital (GKT) Netball side, who clinched a 50-41 victory over their rivals. The opening points of the Varsity season fell to King’s. The King’s College London (KCL) Netball team then demonstrated their perseverance, but they ultimately fell short and lost 56-32. The opening sport of the series ended all square.

The same day also saw an enthralling ultimate frisbee match. With the scores tied at 9-9 coming into the final few minutes, KCL took the victory, taking the winning point with one of the final throws of the game. In the pole fitness competition, KCL gave a high-level performance across each experience category, competing strongly despite being a smaller team. Unfortunately UCL took the victory overall, even if it was an impressive spectacle to watch. After day one, the Varsity overall score stood at 2-2, with a plethora of events still to be played in the following days. 

Friday 17 March saw KCL start the day with an attempt to end previous years of domination from UCL in the weightlifting, but unfortunately losing out overall. Despite their loss, masses of 195kg and 189kg were lifted by the KCL team, demonstrating huge talent and a great performance from the side.

In the table tennis, UCL took another victory, winning 15-6 across a round robin-style format. The tennis fixtures in 2023 were played in a similar style to the Davis Cup match, in which teams played five matches, with the win being claimed by the side who were first to three wins. With KCL starting strong, the UCL team showed great resilience in fighting back to ultimately claim the victory from 2-0 down.

GKT Hockey won 3-1 in a comfortable win, with the day ended on a high for King’s. The high-pressure nature of penalties made for an exciting fixture in the women’s football: after a scrappy game which ended 1-1, Poppy Bowyer-Mitchell stepped up and scored the winning penalty for KCL. 

The footballing excitement spilled over to the men’s fixture on the same evening as they partook in another captivating fixture. Despite going 1-0 down in the early minutes, KCL levelled the scoring in the final moments and forced the game to yet another penalty shootout. After four well-taken penalties, it was heartbreak for KCL, who put their fifth penalty only inches over the crossbar. Heading into the weekend, the Varsity overall score stood at 7-4 in favour of UCL. 

Headed into the weekend, Saturday 18 March saw a variety of highly anticipated fixtures, such as lacrosse, hockey and rowing. Entering the day at a disadvantage on the overall scoreboard, each KCL team had a point to prove and a desire to claw a way back for the university.

Leading 2-1 at half-time, KCL Men’s Lacrosse extended their lead to 4-1 early in the second half – these goals proved to be significant, as they were put under the cosh as UCL scored two shortly after. KCL’s scoring spree continued, however, as they finished the game on top with a tidy 6-3 score-line in their favour. KCL Women’s Lacrosse looked to emulate this success as they faced off against UCL in a fierce and tension-filled match. Despite fighting hard however, it was UCL who came up with the win. The game finished 8-3.

The women’s hockey team put in a “valiant effort” on a cold evening at the Lee Valley Stadium in the Olympic Park. Despite the side generating plenty of opportunities, they struggled to follow through on short corners – a factor which was key in determining their eventual 5-1 loss. The unfortunate score-line was not telling of the match’s events and the defeat proved a tough pill to swallow for the team. After a bitter loss in the previous year, the men’s team were headed into the fixture with vengeance to enact. After making a bold entrance – scoring early from a short corner – the match finished 4-1 to UCL, who played the rest of the game exuding confidence. The KCL rowing team were also sadly beaten by their competitors in a clear 5-0 victory for UCL. After day three, King’s had fallen worryingly far behind: the overall score stood KCL 5-12 UCL. 

The weekend concluded with basketball, American football, volleyball, athletics and GKT Rugby on the Sunday. KCL Men’s Basketball were crowned champions after a convincing 66-52 victory. This winning mentality was shared by the Women’s team, who participated in a match which “summed up the spirit and competitive nature of Varsity”. The score never got away from either side at any point in the game and with 30 seconds left, the score was tied 61-61. KCL managed to capitalise on a couple of free throws in the final moments, pulling out a 64-61 victory.

In the badminton fixtures, both of the women’s singles won in two sets. Then men’s singles found it slightly harder, with two loses. The women’s doubles team made a clean sweep – winning both games in two sets – but the men’s teams lost one and won one. Finally, the mixed doubles team enjoyed another straightforward win for KCL. Overall, KCL won the event 7-4.

The American football fixture was a game that saw both teams lead, with the KCL Regents up against. They started the game strongly, but this was not reflected in the half-time score: 14-7 to UCL. Nonetheless, the Regents fought back hard in the second half, turning the result on its head to win 16-14. Unfortunately, KCL’s Guy’s Hospital rugby team (GHRFC) couldn’t replicate the come-back victory, with much of their first XV out injured for the match. They eventually succumbed 22-6 to their Bloomsbury opponents.

The KCL Women’s Volleyball team put in an intense effort, characterised by “powerful serves and hits, strong positioning and tight communication”. They unfortunately lost convincingly in the end, but put in a performance to be proud of. In the men’s game, the scoreboard similarly didn’t favour King’s, who came up against a dominant UCL side. Regardless of neither the women nor men winning, both teams put on excellent displays in thrilling and close-fought matches. By the end of Sunday, UCL had drawn ahead 15-10 – with only four events left on the Monday, King’s had officially lost the Varsity title.

After losing the title the evening before, King’s had only pride to play for on the final day of the competition, with the Monday fixtures consisting of fencing and rugby fixtures. KCL Women’s Fencing won their event 131-105: taking victory in both the épée (45-43) and foil (45-17) elements meant that they clinched victory despite a loss in the sabre competition (41-45). Unfortunately, KCL Men’s Fencing lost their competition 132-112, winning only the sabre element in a complete inversion of the fortunates of the women’s side.

For the final sport of the competition, both the Women’s and Men’s rugby sides faced off. The women’s game started poorly, with UCL leading 10-0 at half-time, but the team were not dissuaded. After a monumental effort, they achieved an impressive 12-10 victory in a nail-biting comeback.

The comeback theme was extended to the men’s rugby, but this time in favour of team UCL. The last game of Varsity week saw a huge crowd in the stadium as the men’s rugby team went head-to-head with their counterparts from UCL. King’s pulled ahead with a commanding 14-3 lead at half time, but they failed to score a try in the second half and lost 20-22 in the end.

After the final day of Varsity, the over score stood at KCL 12-17 UCL, who retook the crown after the KCL victory in 2022. This year, UCL will be looking to go back-to-back: but to do that, they will have to go through an impressive array of King’s talent.

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