York Foiled in Fencing Men’s 2nds

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I splashed through Sunday morning to watch the Roses fight for two points – literally, with swords. Confession: the most I knew about fencing was only what “en garde” means…

But learning new things is always useful, and Lancaster Women’s Niamh Steed, and her captain, Katie Work, were there to explain: matches divide into three rounds of weapons. Firstly, the Épée, targeting the whole body. Next, the Sabre, aiming for the upper body, including the head and arms. Finally, the Foil, with hits on the torso only. Each round involves 3-minute bouts, with 5-point goals. Bouts end either when a fencer has gained these, or when time runs out. This continues until one side reaches 45 points, when they win the round overall.

Buzzing from their Saturday victory, Katie and Niamh were optimistic for further Lancastrian success, joining supportive chants of “This Tom Can(n)” for the Men’s Seconds Captain, Thomas Cann. Equally enthusiastic were York’s cheerful team. Their captain, Jonathan Burns, hoped for “fun, regardless of the score”.

The sides were evenly matched. Lancaster started well, taking the first ever point. York bounced back, surging ahead to become the first to 40 points. Lancaster were unlucky, conceding a penalty when one fencer retreated too far off the metal piste; later, a sword tip went missing, briefly pausing the Épée. However, Lancaster brought the score level to 42-42, and it was now so close that even LICA’s famous ducks waddled past the window, intrigued. It finally ended with just one point’s difference: Lancaster 45-44 York.

Lancaster’s Harry Carter anticipated another close second round, saying: “We have lots of experience, but we’re not sure what York are like.” But Lancaster soon pulled ahead in the Sabre, being the first to 20 points. After another pause (Captain Cann gained a small but painful injury), Lancaster gained every point goal in the remaining bouts. Round Two ended 45-26 to Lancaster.

Now it all rested on the Foil. Overall, Lancaster had 90 points, and York 70, but York were still able to win if, on gaining 45 points, Lancaster had 24 or under. If Lancaster had 25, it would have been a draw, but their sights were on the golden 26.

Lancaster started by doubling York’s score to lead 12-6. York then moved ahead, 16-17. But it wasn’t enough. Lancaster held York to those 17 points, and quickly gained the 26 needed for victory. To York’s credit, they didn’t give up. They’d claimed 38 points by the time Lancaster won the Foil with 45.

The final score was Lancaster 135-108 York. With lovely sportsmanship, the teams gave each other three cheers. York’s Captain Burns, although sad to lose, found it fun, as he’d hoped, while Lancaster’s Captain Cann was “pleased to win all three weapons”, adding that his injury was “going to be fine”. All in all, an enjoyable morning, as well as a Lancaster victory. And I even managed to learn how fencing works!

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