Never mind the action on the Gold Coast or at Anfield, there's only one competition that anybody's been talking about lately, and that's the inaugural North vs South Challenge Cup. Hosted by English Universities Sport, the England-only part of BUCS, all-star teams made up of students from universities across the country competed across seven sports last week.
Although no Newcastle students made it into the North's football, netball or women's futsal sides, Xavi Rodrigues took part in the men's futsal match. His talents, however, were not enough to secure a win for the team which also featured players from Loughborough, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Manchester and Northumbria. Several Newcastle hockey players featured in both the men's and women's fixtures, however, and notched up two comfortable wins for the North.
These victories were complemented by a thrashing of the southerners in women's football, with the North winning 10-4 on aggregate. Southern wins in the netball and men's and women's futsal were not enough to counter this, and the North were crowned the first Challenge Cup champions with an overall score of 4-3.
Things might have turned out differently if sailing had been included in the programme. As the Yachting Championships in Portsmouth headed towards a conclusion it was clear that Newcastle were not in contention for the Championship places. Disappointing results in the final qualifying races saw Newcastle placed 20th out of 24 teams, with only the top eight progressing to the Championship. Exeter were in the top position from the eight qualifying races but Southampton Solent, racing on their home waters, managed to sneak into first place in the Championship.
Newcastle's low position put them at a points disadvantage in the consolation Trophy competition, and despite a respectable mid-table finish in the first race the Newcastle team were forced to retire in the second, and ended up 14th in the Trophy. More disappointment came after the Easter weekend as the sailors travelled up to Scotland for the Team Racing Championships. Once again Newcastle put in a solid performance but were unable to beat strong teams from Scotland and the South of England. The club's attention now turns to the Match Racing Championships this weekend, which will bring the BUCS sailing season to a close.[pullquote]Local swimmer Emily Large will be representing England at the Commonwealth Games[/pullquote]
With fewer fixtures taking place over Easter, Team Newcastle could still bask in the glory of their rugby win over Northumbria in the Big Uni Clash last week. Northumbria attributed their loss to their focus on an upcoming Championship quarter final, which was a shame because they lost that as well; Bath thrashed them 43-29 at Kingston Park. The final of the Championship, incidentally, will be played at Twickenham next Wednesday between Cardiff Met and Hartpury College.
Also hitting the big stage this week is Emily Large, the local swimmer who uses Newcastle University's Sports Centre for her strength and conditioning training. The 17-year-old will be representing England at the Commonwealth Games and was recently named British swimming's emerging athlete of the year.
With the excitement of a major international sporting competition, not to mention Liverpool's shock Champions League win yesterday, it seems likely that attention will stray from Newcastle University's own sporting fixtures over the coming weeks. But student sport rumbles on regardless, and this weekend will see the Wildcats travel to Sheffield for the ice hockey nationals and the Sailing Club battle it out once again, this time in the BUCS Match Racing Championships down in Weymouth.