The Men’s 1st Hockey game began with all the characteristics of a classic Varsity encounter and finished with a last minute show-stopper fit for the occasion.
The first half was a cagey and nerve-ridden affair as a vocal Varsity crowd looked on. Possession changed hands regularly in the midfield with neither side able to fashion a clear shooting chance. Tackles in the middle of the park were aggressive, and occasionally reckless; it would prove a game where umpires came to the fore.
With shooting opportunities hard to come by, goals from open play seemed unlikely. When Leeds Met made a rare burst into the D and were rewarded with a penalty flick, the feeling around the ground was one of utter bemusement. The absurdity of the situation increased even further as Met flick-taker George Cryer was awarded a re-take after Will Green moved well to save his first attempt. Cryer made no mistake with take two and you got the feeling it just wasn’t going to be Uni’s day.
Uni’s best chance of the half came after a mazy dribble from forward Alfie Jones who squared the ball to Ollie Greenhalgh but his effort faded past the near post. Eventually the attritional midfield action took its toll as a Met player saw yellow for a dangerous tackle on half-back Ross Lockwood. With the game repeatedly breaking down for fouls, the Gryphons were unable to take advantage of the extra man, trailing 1-0 at the break.
The Gryphons came out firing in the second half, dominating possession and fizzing dangerous deliveries into the D. It appeared as though the deadlock had been broken when a Leeds Met player deflected just such a ball into his own net. However the umpires intervened, not for the last time in the game, deeming the touch to have occurred outside the area.
Uni were starting to gather real momentum in attack and were rewarded with a mounting number of short corners. Uni were again denied by the umpires when they had a second goal disallowed from a short corner for not stopping the ball outside the D.
Uni’s Ali Mannering and Simon Hanley terrorised the Met defence throughout with their elusive dribbling and finally they got their reward as a short corner was deflected into the net from amidst a goalmouth scramble. With the score standing at 1-1, the scene was set for a tense conclusion.
With a minute to go the Gryphons were awarded a short corner; surely their last chance to snatch a victory in regular time? Uni set up their castles for the short corner but the keeper denied them. With a last act of desperation Uni pinned Met in their own area to win one final short corner. The routine is repeated but this time Campbell’s low drag flick is met by Hanley, who directs it past the Met keeper before running and throwing himself into the watching crowd; an unforgettable end to a classic Varsity tie.