LEEDS Korfball first team travelled to the University of East Anglia last weekend to compete in the BUCS National Championships, the top tier of BUCS korfball tournaments. Sixteen teams in total qualified for the finals in Norwich from around Britain, including two from Yorkshire.
Leeds’s first match of the two-day tournament was against the South East regional champions Cambridge University, who boasted an England U19 international. Because of this, it was always going to be the toughest match for Leeds and Cambridge asserted their dominance on the match by taking an early 5-0 lead. Leeds looked like they may be able to make their way back into the match as Matt Norman scored two quick goals, but Cambridge quickly shut the door once again to go in at the half-time whistle 11-4 ahead. Despite battling until the end, Leeds were unable to crawl back and eventually lost 18-6, a tough start to a long day.
Having lost the first group match, the team knew they would have to win their second match against Cardiff to qualify for the quarter-finals. After going 3-0 behind early on, Leeds showed their fighting spirit to draw level with goals from Debs Cray, Jake Cooke and Rachel Muir. Despite briefly taking the lead, Leeds went behind at the half-time break 9-7 as Cray and Cooke each scored another two. Unfortunately for the Gryphons, Cardiff came out of the break stronger than in the first to deny a Leeds comeback and inflict their second defeat of the day.
With the pressure of top-half qualification off their shoulders, Leeds comfortably played their best korfball of the day against fellow strugglers Manchester. Leeds played with a sense of freedom and were obviously enjoying the match a lot more to win their first of the day, 13-8. The win meant Leeds finished third in their group and would play Northumbria in the plate quarter-finals.
Leeds continued their new-found good form to comfortably beat Northumbria 15-6, with the goals being spread around the team to end the day on a high. The run of wins was extended the next morning as Leeds managed to hang on to a very tight 15-14 win over Bedfordshire despite having enjoyed a 12-5 lead at half-time.
It wouldn’t be a BUCS tournament if Leeds didn’t end the day playing local rivals Sheffield Hallam, as they had in the previous two qualifying tournaments. In both previous matches, Hallam comfortably had Leeds’s number. Despite being on the losing side again, the performance was vastly improved in a 9-6 loss.
The final loss meant Leeds finished a very respectable tenth place, only two behind their best-ever finish at korfball Nationals, and a great performance from all ten members of the squad, as everyone scored during the weekend. Southampton went on to win the final against a very good Nottingham side to retain their title as champions, but a final massive shout-out to Leeds Captain Luke Hawthorne who picked up the male MVP award for the whole tournament, an incredible achievement to say the least.
Featured image: LUU Korfball