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Lancaster men’s fencing team have had a tough start to the season. Having been promoted to the premier division, they suffered two early defeats. However, confidence was high for the visit of Birmingham – in last season’s corresponding fixture, Lancaster had successfully defeated the visitors in the promotion playoffs.
After the weapon order had been agreed by the captains, the epéeists were first up to fence. Traditionally, epée is Lancaster’s second strongest weapon; however, Birmingham also tend to field very strong epée teams. Therefore, the task for Lancaster was relatively simple – keep the weapon close. The home team consisted of club president and team veteran, Chris Anwyl, multi-weapon specialist George Broadbent, and a newcomer to the team, Nathan Magnall. All three fenced well, with Magnall doing especially well to score more hits than he lost in his first match. Broadbent held his own against more experienced opposition, yet going into the final bouts Lancaster were facing a larger deficit than they had anticipated. However, Anwyl mounted something of a comeback in his last bout, leaving the score 39-45 to Birmingham.
Next up was foil, a weapon which the home side has struggled with in recent seasons, and it was generally felt that someone would have to step up and deliver an outstanding performance to give the team the confidence they needed. Starters Devon Boyd, Matt Haslam and Chon Wong all struggled not to be outclassed by their opponents and at one point Lancaster were down 4-20. Wong, returning from a year abroad in Norway, found form in his second bout and showed his teammates they could score points against Birmingham, taking the score to 11-25. Despite this, the next bout did not go so well and Lancaster’s hopes of winning were looking slim at 11-30 down. Team captain John Simmons then made the decision to sub on reserve Chris Jacques in place of Boyd, completely changing the course of the match. When all looked lost, Jacques came on and smashed his opponent 10-3, only having to stop because the bout timed out – had it not done so, it would seem that Jacques could have comfortably scored several more. Thanks to his performance, the final score in the foil finished 22-45 to Birmingham, a tough defeat, but not a complete one.
Lastly was the sabre team, comfortably Lancaster’s strongest weapon. Headed by captain John Simmons, with Patrick Jennings and Wai Yu Kwan as his more than able teammates, they faced a difficult challenge – they needed to score 45 hits and restrict Birmingham to just 15 or less in order to win the match overall. It was going to be incredibly difficult, but the sabre team had done similar things before – in Roses 2014 they demolished York 45-6. Things started exceptionally well, with Jennings cruising to win 5-0 in his first fight, making it look effortless, and Lancaster were soon 25-4 up, with 45-15 looking very achievable. By the time Jennings had to fence in the final bout it was 40-9, meaning Jennings had to score fewer points than his Birmingham counterpart, Tom Hendra. Being used to this kind of high pressure situation, Jennings displayed his usual cool and class and finished the match 45-10, having individually scored 15 hits and only dropped one.
Overall, this meant that Lancaster beat Birmingham 106-100 and chalked up their first win in the premier league. Despite a few hiccoughs in the early matches, Lancaster showed that they were in the premier league for a reason – and here to stay.