Fencing: University of Southampton Surprise Victory Against the University of Cardiff

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“Fencing is very much a mind game.” As to quote Pete Cronbach, the Southampton University Men’s Fencing Captain on Wednesday, during the all three blade match between Cardiff and Southampton.

At 1pm in the Activities Room, the team were resigned to defeat. The captain had marked the match as a loss before it had even begun. Last season, Southampton played Cardiff in the league and the cup, and were mercilessly beaten on both occasions.

Cardiff finished third in the league whilst Southampton came third from the bottom.

Spirits were lifted by the team being much stronger this year, with promising new (and experienced!) recruits amongst the fresher intake earlier this month, yet were dampened as Cardiff’s team had familiar faces supported by a much larger team.

This was much illustrated by the SUSU TV Pre-Match Interviews, for the Cardiff Captain was clearly very confident, whilst the host captain less so.

I observed the action from the sidelines with a scoring sheet for each weapon, passed on to SUSU TV afterwards. Live actions photos were taken at the event and will be forthcoming on the fencing club’s official website.

Sabre

It was agreed the order would be Sabre, Epée then Foil. Niall Ahearne began the match with an early lead, followed neatly by club president Kelly Jackson, leaving Cardiff (literally) eating dust at 10-4.

At this surprise attack, Cardiff tried to pull back, but Niall Ahearne returned and trounced with a 5-1 splendour. The captain Pete Cronbach stepped in to win the penultimate bout, leaving a clear runway of five points for Niall Ahearne to show off.

Of course, the star sub for Cardiff put up an excellent resistance, making Niall work for his eventual triumph, creating the new phrase “a-niall-ate” amongst the team mates. Southampton won the sabre 45-40.

Epée

Epée was a much closer game. George Emmanouil laid down the gauntlet with a fine first bout, yet Cardiff caught up in the second bout. Southampton were on the edge of their seats until Duncan Robinson swooped in with his long reach, catalysing a sustained lead for Southampton in Epée.

The scores that followed included George at 5-1 and Pete Cronbach (tactically subbed on in Duncan’s place) at 5-2 and 5-3. Brilliant.

In the final bout, George Emmanouil capitalised on a fifteen point lead with some of the afternoon’s finest fencing, tempered by Cardiff’s guile and speed, making it a difficult win indeed. After the excitement at Southampton’s dominance, they were pleased to win at 45-31.

Foil

Quiet confidence pervaded the Southampton team as they reasoned that they only needed 26 points in foil to win overall. Yet it was so quiet due to Cardiff’s strongest weapon being foil. Harry Whitwell lead the way with a 5-0, yet he was swept aside by halfway through for Cardiff was leading far ahead at 20-12.

Perhaps inspired by his efforts being wasted (who knows?), he returned in the most magnificent bout of the day, bringing to the pile 13-3, leaving Southampton three bouts to score the one point needed for overall victory.

Yet the Cardiff Captain (rather frustratingly for the team) denied Kelly a winning hit for the full three minutes of the bout. This left Harry under all the pressure to bring Southampton victory in all three blades.

Yet despite scoring several points, Cardiff ran away at 45-39.

After Match

The final score was 129-116. Special mention must be made to Duncan Robinson and Niall Ahearne, whose skillful hits were crucial to the victories in their individual weapons. Also special mention extends to Luke Milner, who is also a fresher this year, and despite his nerves saw his part to the end.

There were many disputes over certain points during the bout. One particular hit that was much debated was if the opponent is not on the ground and not above the piste, does a finished attack count as a point. According to the official fencing rule book, the right decision was made that it was a hit for the opponent was trying to move out of the way, and had stepped off piste, but halt could not be called because it was ambiguous.

I close the report with another quote from the captain, “I hope that with growing confidence we will have less nerves closing out winning hits.”

Summary of scores

Sabre: 45-40

Epée: 45-31 (1 Yellow Card to Cardiff)

Foil: 39-45

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I come from the land of cheese and cider, and like Bilbo Baggins I left the Shire to seek adventure. Let's hope I can outsmart Gollum.

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