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Roses 2014 promised much for the Lancaster Fencing club. After the men’s team successfully claimed promotion into the BUCS North Premier Division and the women’s team completed a positive season, narrowly missing out on promotion as well, the stage was set for Roses glory. The men’s sabre team in particular, comprised of John Simmons, Pat Jennings and Jonny Spicer had blown away other universities throughout the course of the year – they were hoping that such success would be replicated in Roses.
Many of the sizeable crowd that had gathered at LICA had never witnessed fencing before, and credit must be given to both the referee and the members of Lancaster Fencing Club who explained the sport in detail before the games began. The walk-on music and a giant scoreboard raised supporter interaction and created some great entertainment – before the sport even began, the crowd was alive and looked forward to what they hoped would be another Lancaster victory.
The day began with both York and Lancaster’s second teams battling it out to take victory and the two Roses points on offer. Lancaster began positively, with Sipthorpe and Haslam fencing well to give Lancaster the early lead in the foil. York then battled back ferociously with Grabowy, who performed well throughout the day, taking a bout 12-1 to give York the lead. After Chan safely negotiated his bout, York won the foil and took the lead in the match with the score at 45-34.
York continued to dominate in the early stage of the épée, racing into a 65-44 lead in the match. With York turning the screw, George Broadbent of Lancaster came to the piste with a great deal of work to do. After scoring a couple of early hits, the crowd really got behind him and drove him on – after a monumental effort, Broadbent scored 14 points in a single bout and brought Lancaster to within two points of York in the weapon. Harry Scholefield then continued the fine work of Broadbent, claiming 10 points in his bout and, after scoring 24 points in the final two bouts, Lancaster took the épée 45-43. This left the score 87-79 to York with just one weapon, sabre, remaining. Much to the delight of the crowd, the sabre team picked up where the épée had finished, scoring 3 whitewashes to leave the score at a resounding 15-0 in the weapon. Team captain Wai Yu and Paul Ashcroft in particular were fencing superbly, and in no time at all Lancaster wrapped up the match, claiming a categorical 124-93 win in the match. After the match, captain Wai Yu paid tribute to the crowd and his teammates, saying “I am very proud of my team mates. The reaction of the crowd was fantastic and made the victory even sweeter”. It was a very impressive performance from Lancaster seconds, and meant that they took the two Roses points available.
Soon after, the men’s team took to the piste. For them, a win was worth four points in Roses, and the intensity from both sides in the early stages made it clear how much a win would mean. Lancaster’s Simmons, Jennings and Bell-Bradford made a solid start in the foil to take the score to 25-19. The crowd was soon silenced by a superb performance from Cornwell of York – he won his bout 8-5 to bring York to within 3 points of Lancaster. After some attritional fencing in the seventh and eighth bouts which resulted in them being timed out, York had taken the lead 38-34 with McLean demonstrating some good technique. Jennings, however, then displayed why he is considered such a talented fencer – after intense pressure, he took 11 points from the final bout and Lancaster snatched victory in the foil by 45-44. The roar from both Jennings and the crowd was a great snapshot of the passion Roses competition can invoke – it also meant that Lancaster were in the driving seat.
The early stages of the épée were extremely tense – both sides wanted to avoid flamboyant fencing which could potentially allow the other to open up a lead. After good play from Synadino of York, the pressure was on Anywl to deliver in his bout and bring Lancaster back into the lead. He duly delivered, fencing beautifully to give Lancaster a vital 5 point lead in the match. Jennings consolidated this with another great bout, before Parry battled well to give Lancaster the lead by 9 points. Although Synadino attempted to fight back, scoring 7 points in his bout, the momentum was firmly with the Lancaster men, and they duly took the épée by 45-35, giving them an overall lead of 90-79 in the match.
Spicer, Jennings and Simmons typically came shooting out of the blocks, cruising to a 30-6 lead in the sabre. The crowd was cheering every hit made by the trio and, with the victory now secured, the Lancaster men began to enjoy themselves, producing some exciting fencing to win the match 135-85. It was a hugely professional performance, and won them a vital four Roses points. Sabre team member Jonny Spicer was understandably delighted when he spoke to SCAN straight after the game, saying “I feel ecstatic. I’ve been training for this for a long time so to not only win but to win so convincingly is amazing”. Club Captain John Simmons thanked the crowd for their support, before confirming that he was delighted with the team’s performance.
The women were up next, hoping to continue the fine work from Lancaster and bring home another 4 points. York took the early advantage in the épée, with Forsyth and Hennerberg combining to give their team a commanding 35-25 lead. Once again though, Lancaster fought back, with Xu taking 11 points in a high quality bout to bring the score to 40-36. It wasn’t quite enough though, as York took the first weapon by 45-40. Into the foil, and York began to exert some pressure onto Lancaster – Maddalena in particular fencing well to take the score to 70-52 overall. Lancaster were unable to defend against this, and succumbed in the weapon by a categorical 45-17. Despite this, both the Lancaster crowd and team remained buoyant – the crowd roused themselves to give Lancaster a push towards claiming another victory.
Claire Starr started brilliantly, winning her bout 9-0 to take the weapon score in the sabre to 15-10. With great support from Osborne, Lancaster raced into a 30-22 lead in the weapon. Osborne then took a bout by 5-0, sparking great celebrations in the Lancaster camp. Despite the momentum gained by this, Lancaster were unable to turn the tide in the overall match standings, eventually falling narrowly short at 118-102 in the match. The quality of their fencing in the sabre in particular was very impressive, and there are many positives to build on for Roses 2015. Credit must also go to the York women who performed well to claim their fencing club four valuable Roses points.
Thus concluded a fantastic day of high-quality Roses sport – the future for Lancaster fencing looks exceptionally bright: with the men in the Premier Division next year, and the women looking to push on from their second place finish this year, it is safe to assume that the overall quality of fencing will continue to improve from its already high level. Roses 2015 cannot come soon enough.