Derby Day, Sport

Derby Day special report

As part of our post Derby-Day special our writers have taken a look at some of the defining sports from the fixture.

[su_tabs vertical=”yes”][su_tab title=”Dance – Tom Gordon”]

Three wins each as Dance ends in draw

At 17:00, as Derby Day began to draw to a close, the Esx dance theatre was begining to fill up as supporters from both Essex and UEA ralied behind their teams for the event which could potentially win Derby Day for UEA. When the event began UEA needed just four points to clinch a victory.

There were inklings of just how raucous an event this would turn out to be when a lone voice screamed out “ESSEX!!” somewhere from the back of the room. This of course elicited huge cheers from the home audience, who constituted about two thirds of the crowd. Eventually, as the buzz in the room increased and the excitement became more and more palpable, our compere entered the stage.

The Essex contingent were the first to strut their stuff, with a very unconventional routine set to Little Mix’s ‘Salute’, which went down a treat with the audience. However, it was the UEA cohort who were the real stars of this match up. The natural grace and poise from the UEA ballet girls blew Essex out the water. Considering how hard it is to win over a hostile crowd, many of whom are not dance fans,should give you some idea of how impressive the reception UEA ballet received was.

Next up, Contemporary. In keeping with the alternating order it was UEA who took the stage first, dancing to a medley of “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid and Lorde’s cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. The performance was replete with the sort of energy, stamina and skill that entirely justifies Dance’s place at Derby Day. The performance was vindicated when an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Essex dance fan conceded “I’m gonna have to clap for that. That was good”.

It was pretty much an impossible act to for the home side to follow. An Essex student, perhaps a little influenced by the higher- than-average alcohol blood levels that are par for the course on Derby Day, shouted, “This is shit!” The unsuspecting Essex fan realised that he was in fact watching Essex and not UEA, and after a few apoplectic head turns in the surrounding area, he quickly backtracked and shouted “Come on Essex!” An act of improvisation very much in the spirit of dance.

Up next was Jazz, and out first here was once again UEA. This superb routine was another crowd pleaser, and although there were of course the requisite scattered Essex boos for every UEA dance group, it seemed like Dance was the event that transcended Derby Day rivalry. One Essex supporter was certainly bowled over, rapturously declaring UEA’s jazz routine to be “the best thing [he’d] ever seen”, and started to quietly chant “UEA, UEA”, much to the chagrin of his peers.

Next up was UEA’s tap group, who classed up the joint a little after the suitably salacious Essex jazz number. It was a delectable routine by our ladies, who were tap-tap-tapping along to Justin Bieber. A delight to watch, their well drilled performance was a great tonic for the soul. The crowd was baying for Essex tap, who rewarded their audience’s support with another fantastic dance.

It was time for the Street division next, and it’s safe to say that a lot of people had been anticipating this one. The theatre was filled to breaking point, with the audience spilling out onto both sets of stairs. Essex’s group were first and the produced a phenominal performance. The atmosphere was incredible, with whooping and hollering punctuating every flick of a wrist. Screaming, shouting and even dancing in the aisles were the wholly appropriate bi-products of this wonderful blend of aggression, swagger and flamboyance. Not surprisingly, a standing ovation followed from the Essex sectors of the crowd.

It would be an understatement to say that UEA street had a tough act to follow. But it would be even more of an understatement to say they didn’t do anything less than totally smash it. All clad in black, UEA were supremely confident from the moment they stepped out onto the stage. How this huge troupe of bombastic dancers and wonderfully choreographed action didn’t descend into chaos is a testament to the skill of these dancers. They were amazing; it was amazing.

The competition finished up with the wildcard round, and the lovely Latin/Ballroom medley from UEA was a welcome way to soothe the nerves after the previous sets. Essex’s wildcard really went for the jugular, busting out the twerking to a soundtrack of Rihanna and enraptured whooping.

After that the event broke for 15 minutes, as the three judges made their deliberations. In the spirit of an event that seemed more about artistic excellence, physical grace, and stamina, it ended up being three a piece. Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary went to UEA, and Tap, Street and Wildcard were awarded to Essex. One judge gave a welcome special mention to all the UEA dancers whom he said had grown so much in the last two years since he had seen them last he could hardly believe it.

All three judges showered plaudits on the choreographers of UEA’s jazz routine, a performance they were genuinely dumbstruckby.Theroutinewascappedoff withaflip/kick/somersaulthybridbydancer Isabella Pike. This led one of the other judges to enact an actual mic drop at the end of the awards process. Happy to shirk any instinct for self-censorship he declared the feat “fucking amazing”.

It was indeed an evening that no set of expletives, adjectives or narratives could really do justice to. The amount of energy and talent on display was simply mind-boggling. However, with UEA winning just three points out of the six the away team could not claim victory quite yet; UEA still needed to pick up one point from another event before they could celebrate retaining the Derby Day cup.

Tom Gordon [/su_tab]

[su_tab title=”Hockey – Jessica Frank-Keyes”]

Hockey stick it to Essex with double victory

After taking their warm-up very seriously – for a side that haven’t lost to Essex in four years – UEA Men’s Hockey took to the pitch. The spectators, with Essex and UEA equal offenders, kicked off the match with chants and insults, both aware that just over halfway through the day’s events, there was still all to play for. The first short corner of the match went to UEA, who missed, but soon got the game underway with Dave Gilbert scoring the first goal, quickly followed by Jack Hallworth. The team went into halftime with the score 0-2 to UEA.

Back on the pitch, and while keeper Josh Thody had very little to do in the early stages match, UEA got the second half off to a strong start with a short corner and a second goal from Gilbert, and then a third. With the score now 0-4 to UEA, Essex were starting to get worried. It didn’t get better for them after they missed their first short corner of the game, Essex Hockey Club’s Twitter referred to the impressive save of a drag flip by Thody as a “lucky block”. The crowd of UEA supporters were still in a great mood and cheering on their team.

Essex then took the long corner and after some more good defence from Thody, striker Dylan Mitchard scored the fifth goal of the match. UEA’s top goal scorer this year later said: “it was a real pleasure to score my 40th goal of the season, and I would like to thank my mentor and the team. UEA Hockey Club will stay with me forever.” The Essex men could not seem to get their heads around UEA’s 5-point lead, and were still reporting on social media a score of 0-4.

There was excitement in the crowd as an Essex fan attempted to steal a UEA banner. Luckily by this point the girls team had arrived and soon put a stop to this, rescuing the banner just in time for the final goal of the match, scored by Josh Glass.

The final whistle blew, leaving the score 0-6 to a triumphant UEA side, who wasted no time in getting the celebrations started. Bucs team captain, Luke Corden, spoke to Concrete after the match: “I’m really proud of the way the whole team played, it was a complete performance. Six goals and a clean sheet”. He added that he “couldn’t have asked the boys for anything more. Magic”.

The women’s match got off to a similarly good start, in warm conditions. The score was 0-1 to UEA within the first few minutes, after Rachel Millar, incoming Ladies 1s captain,

scored the first goal of the match. UEA picked up speed and the score was soon 1-3 to the visitors after the current Ladies captains, Lucy Jeffrey and Grace Julier, got one each past the Essex keeper. Jeffrey said after the game: “we were carried by the amazing support from our fellow UEA hockey players, and thanks to everyone else who was cheering, we drowned Essex out with no problem!”

The second half of the game was more equally matched, with no goals scored on either side. After some great defence from UEA, the game ended with UEA ahead by two points, 1-3. A fantastic result for both of the visiting teams.

Jessica Frank-Keyes [/su_tab]

[su_tab title=”Fencing – Sean Harbottle”]

UEA fencing a thorn in Essex’s side

At 12.30, hidden away in Sub-Zero, Essex’s campus nightclub, the Men and Women’s fencing competion was getting underway, in what would turn out to be one of the most exciting events of Derby Day.

The UEA Women lost the first round, however, incoming UEA President for Fencing, Ben Bone, seemed unphased arguing that UEA had “confident teams in each weapon”; each match in fencing is made up of three different swords.

Bone’s equivalent president, Jessica Borowsky for Essex, hit back saying they were relying on their team captains Megan and Owen as well as Saberio, their Italian exchange superstar.

The UEA Men pulled through to win the Epee bout with a substantial lead, even more impressive considering only two of their three man epee team were properly prepared for that weapon. However, temporary success could only mask bigger problems for a while, as the Women began heavily trailing in the second round using the Sabre. Bone even admitted that it was an “emergency” sabre team. But Essex Women did not hold back, winning the second bout 45 – 16 . At that point, it was impossible for the UEA girls to pull it back, and so a crucial overall point went to Essex immediately. Bone would later tell me that in the Women’s team “90% started this year, fencing very well against a team of more experienced fencers”.

Bone’s troubles weren’t over. The boys team finished the round 35 to Essex’s 45, losing a large part of the lead they’d made in the prior round. It was Saberio “wot won it”: forcing an emergency substituition for UEA, which actually made things worse, as frustration made way for mistakes.

A draw was still possible, and with key player Nathan Gull behind them, the UEA boys made back a 25 point lead in the Foil round – the deciding bout. Tension was high after Essex Girls dominated the UEA team in the last round, but the UEA boys pulled through, with their 33 to Essex’s 11 ensuring their win in that round: and an overall point for UEA on Derby Day 2016.

Both teams seemed satisfied, having both won a crucial point to boost morale going into the final sports. Borowsky admitted Foil was something to work on for next time, as Saberio had dominated the entire men’s sabre bout. Bone expressed relief that his main man had pulled through, calling the sensational Nathan Gull an “exceptional leadership figure, exceptional in all three weapons”.

Then came a post-match ritual: each team lined up against opposite walls in a line, facing each other with an intense stare. Each team unleashed a mighty roar in support of the other team’s performance, meeting in the middle in a happy, tired hug. [/su_tab]

[su_tab title=”Volleyball – Caitlin Doherty”]

UEA volleyball overpower Essex storming to 25-13 win

The UEA women led from the start at the Derby Day volleyball match, taking a relatively quick victory over Essex in straight sets and in under 40 minutes.

The first team to reach 25 points, regardless of the other team’s score, wins the set. The straight set scores of 16-25 and 13-25 do justice to the advantage that the UEA girls had over the Blades throughout.

The match was initially a little late to begin, however, this proved to be an advantage for the away team, as by the halfway point of the first set, a large number of the UEA Men’s Football team had made it to the Sports Hall to support the girls after having received their own winning medals in the square. Chants of support were rallied for both teams; however, regular renditions of “UEA is wonderful” helped the girls to an early 6-12 lead in the first set.

The UEA point rate dropped a little as a member of the team took quite a dramatic fall to the floor on to her face and stomach. However, after these incidents, the UEA team continued to pull ahead, eventually taking the set by 25 points to 16, without ever allowing the Blades into the lead.

The home team ran a closer game in the second set, taking the score at one point to a tight 8-12, but, just as in the first set, at no point did UEA allow Essex to take the lead. They stormed ahead to a victory from this point in, eventually taking the set with a massive 12-point advantage, 13-25.

UEA Vice Chancellor, David Richardson, was present at the match and was more than happy to sing UEA’s praises as the match came to an end. “I’m so pleased to see that UEA are in the lead…it’s great to see the excitement from both teams”.

Caitlin Doherty


[su_tab title=”Netball – Tom Gordon”]

Mixed results for UEA netball stalwarts

Netball was one of the first events of the day. Both UEA 1sts and 2nds had to do all they could to help give the away side an early advantage in the overall scoring for the day. However, despite exciting performances from both teams, only one was able to secure victory.

First up was the 2nds. The first quarter saw frantic attacking from both teams, a netballing mainstay. The second quarter was replete with fantastic counter attacks from UEA’s 2nds.

These swift turnovers in play were an absolute joy to watch, with each player moving so fluidly and nimbly into space that trying to keep track of all seven of them was almost as frustrating as it must have been to mark them.

The third quarter seemed like the death knell for Essex. With UEA up at 13-20 the two worst clarion cries in the lexicon of crowds came from the Essex end: “Heads up!” and “Don’t give up!” It seemed like the twilight hour had come for the Essex 2s. By the end of the third quarter it was 14-22, and it hardly seemed like Essex were about to mount a comeback. However, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, UEA were guilty of a little complacency, as Essex bagged two goals in quick succession, closing the gap to six at 16- 22.

However, UEA couldn’t have killed this comeback more instantly than they did. In space of about five minutes it was 16-29 to UEA, with Essex barely being able to get a hand to the ball. Although Essex got a few consolation points, the final whistle blew at 22-31 in favour of UEA.

As the 1sts took to the court it seemed like it was going to be very much a repeat performance. Essex were absolutely nowhere, and UEA were pummelling them. Very quickly the score had risen to 2-7. Essex soon found their feet, and pulled the score back to first a gap of three, at 4-7, and then of only two at 6-8. By the second quarter, with UEA at 14 to Essex’s 10, there was at least a little breathing space for UEA to have as a backstop.

The third quarter was the first in which it became starkly clear this was not going to be anywhere near the kind of walkover the seconds had. It was very much a tit-for-tat affair, with seemingly every UEA goal finding an Essex rejoinder. It became such a tense affair that the UEA goal keeper managed to lose the wire of her bra, although she was typically unruffled by this unwelcome distraction. Indeed, Essex managed to pull back UEA for the first time in the game, with the score held at 18 all at one point. UEA afforded themselves a two goal cushion, with the third quarter ending 18-20 in UEA’s favour.

The fourth quarter was an absolute thriller. It seemed that UEA were in control, and ready to shepherd their victory home. They had opened up a five-point lead, and at 20-25, 21- 26 and 22-27 it seemed that, despite the best efforts of Essex, this would be unassailable. But this was not to be, as Essex hit their stride in fine fashion, and UEA began to seem a little less than invincible. That 22-27 soon became 27 all, and every time UEA managed to pull ahead by a point Essex would peg them back. This was until the score sat at 29 a piece, and the game very much in the balance.

Almost inexorably, Essex pulled ahead for the first time, and at 31-29 to Essex the noise level went through the roof. UEA managed to get a goal back, and with Essex only one ahead at 31-30 it seemed like UEA could stage a last minute comeback of their own. But it was not to be. Essex got another, and soon after the final whistle sounded out across the court. Essex were jubilant, and UEA a little gobsmacked.

Tom Gordon


[su_tab title=”Men’s football – Tom Gordon”]

Heated tie sees UEA men’s football first team triumph 3-2

After Essex were bested 1-3 away from home in the tie last year the return to their native climbs was as much a battle for the pride of Essex as it was for victory. UEA’s away support was superb, taking up one quarter of the sidelines, and separated from the Essex fans by a very diplomatically minded copse of trees. Spirits were high, sobriety was low, and all was set for a superb game of football.

Sadly the game got off to an inauspicious start. Although both sides were making occasional forays into the other half, complimented by a few bombing runs from UEA’s fullbacks, it seemed to be a game that no one really wanted to get stuck into and win.

UEA found themselves frustrated by mistiming several attacking runs and getting caught offside. The only real highlight of the first 15 minutes was one of the more dicey moments of the entire game for UEA. A peach of a lobbed ball was put in by Essex that entirely bypassed the UEA defence, and found its way with delicious precision to the feet of the Essex no. 8. But there was one unknown element that could not be bypassed: UEA’s no. 1 Aristo Jackson, who was complete with constant screaming and cap (as any goalkeeper worth their salt should be). He sprinted off his line and bore down like a marauding giant on Essex’s no. 8, managing to slide tackle and clear the ball in one fell swoop.

The fieriest highlight of the first half was the breakout of a fight. As with most of these instances of handbags at dawn it was hard to see what caused tempers to instantly flare so high, and whatever the genesis of this bout was it happened off the ball.

Say what you want about the commensurate difference in quality between Derby Day and the Premier League, but they certainly know how to have a proper clash. None of this forehead to forehead and crumple to the ground nonsense. After pugilism made its first (and only) incursion into the game UEA’s no. 6 and 3 were both shown yellow cards for their troubles, as did the Essex no. 7. Although one could certainly accuse the referee of a degree of leniency it seemed a smart bit of officiating: it’d be like sin binning gladiators for poking at each other with swords. It may not quite have been the infamous 26 man brawl in last year’s rugby, but it certainly kept the game bubbling over.

After Essex put their first ball into the box since what seemed like the last days of the GDR, UEA finally gave the crowd something to scream about. UEA’s number 12 stole, burgled and otherwise embezzled the ball from the Essex midfield, leaving Essex overcommitted and trussed up for the taking. He slotted a perfect ball through the now stretched defence, and before you knew it UEA’s Nathan Russell had slotted the ball obligingly into the bottom right corner. 0-1 UEA.

UEA had their tails up, and were making more and more runs deep into the Essex half, finding the necessary holes in the previously watertight Essex midfield. They were assured on and off the ball, able to shut down Essex attacks as soon as they began. However, a sustained bout of Essex pressure soon saw all but one of UEA’s players behind the ball, and Essex curled in a lovely shot from outside the box that just skipped wide of the far post. It was the nearest the Blades had come all game. It was just not their day.

A long UEA throw-in from next door to the corner flag was headed out by the Essex defence, but was not quite the convincing

clearance the fans had hoped for. UEA captain, Joel Potter’s, foot seemed like a magnet, as he volleyed the ball right back into the top left hand corner of goal, and in off the underside of the bar. Soon after the half time whistle blew, and UEA were looking comfortable at 0-2.

Essex began the second half looking far more dangerous than they had ended the first, and after several dangerous balls into the box it became clear that the Yellows needed to regain control and slow down the game. The consequences of failing to do so became starkly clear when Essex finally got their foot in the door, when their no. 9 picked up the ball in box and smashed it beyond Aristo Jackson. It was all a little too easy, and that 1-2 scoreline looked precipitously fragile.

Several bouts of cramp saw UEA’s no.8 and Essex’s no. 11 subbed off, and following a hefty but fair challenge, UEA’s Owen Betts ,had to come off injured. This didn’t augur well, and soon enough Essex had pegged UEA back to two a piece. After a fairly indignifying and scrappy few moments of the ball bouncing hither and thither in the UEA box, the keeper was dragged out of position, and it was an easy tap in for Essex. Soon after this, one of the more unexpected moments of the game occurred. A flare came out of nowhere. Essex’s security team were quickly on it, removing the item from the field of play. It wasn’t quite Besiktas- Galatasary, but along with the earlier fight it did help drum up a superbly testy atmosphere in the game.

After the second Essex goal, UEA seemed distinctly under the kosh. They certainly didn’t look like bagging another goal, and with Essex continuing to make a habit of setting up shop outside the UEA box, it seemed they were in danger of conceding another. But just as it looked like everything was about to go pear shaped it wasn’t Essex that put themselves 3-2 up, but the Yellows, with Nathan Russell chalking up another fantastic goal. He was put in by a sumptuous chipped ball, and then seemed to ghost his way through the Essex defence before blasting it into the back of the net as if the Essex no. 1 wasn’t even there. Cue the entire men’s second team sprinting onto the pitch to celebrate with their on-field counterparts, and a beer soaked huddle that almost brought a tear to this jaded reporter’s eye. It was a portrait that ran the gamut of emotion, as foregrounded on the byline against the jubilant UEA celebrations was Essex’s supine no. 14, sighing that the third goal was “too easy”.

With the score 2-3 in UEA’s favour, besides another lonely flare being lit the rest of the game proceeded in an orderly fashion, and was more of a gradual winding down than anything else. The final whistle blew, and the requisite Derby Day bedlam occurred as nigh on every UEA fan worth their salt sprinted onto the pitch to celebrate with the well-deserved victors.

Special mention has to go to both team’s keepers, for they both endured their own personal battles of patience. UEA’s Aristo Jackson was blessed enough to find himself with the most boisterous members of the Essex contingent behind the goal in the second half, and found himself the butt of a new and more demeaning chant every fresh minute that ticked by. Essex’s no. 1 found himself with his own personal retinue of UEA men’s second XI fanning out on both sides of his goal, and following his every step to the right, and every step back to the left.

After this closely fought game, Concrete ask UEA men’s football president, Jonathon Stevento, to sum up his view of the clash. He merely exclaimed that he had “no idea” how to do so, and was “lost for words”.

Tom Gordon


[su_tab title=”Men’s basketball – Sean Harbottle”]

UEA fall to heavy 99-56 defeat in Men’s Basketball

At last year’s Derby Day, the Men’s Basketball game truly came down to the wire. A three pointer right in the dying stages of the macth clinched it, victory for Essex with a the final scoreboard reading Essex 66, UEA 64. One year later, playing in Essex, there was a real buzz and sense of optimism that UEA would make amends for the home loss. However, all expectations were promptly dashed by a lacklustre performance.

UEA got the first three points, a strong start despite players tussling on the ground only one minute in. Essex swiftly adapted their approach, and capitalized on an unusually weak UEA defence to bring it up to 10-3 in Essex’s favour. It wasn’t looking good for UEA, even at this early stage.

An injury taking one of the UEA players off opened the floodgates for Essex to run riot – scoring a quick succession of three-pointers to bring the score to 28–11 to Essex by the end of the first quarter. Things got no better towards the end of the second quarter, with

UEA infighting and a lack of coordination bringing it to 56-29 in Essex’s favour.

The UEA Panthers carried some momentum into the second half, things looking up as UEA brought it to 63-40. The Blades cut back quickly, and their players pace ensured that by the end of the match, the Blades making it to triple figures actually looked likely.

A late, desperate surge from UEA ensured Essex gained no such bragging rights, the match ending 99-56 to Essex.

Leaving the match was a tough one. The home crowd were overjoyed of course, but the UEA supporters seemed unusually deflated.

The match had been scrappy on both accounts, and there was no late adrenaline boost as with last year. Essex had evidently come to win, having a home advantage and a strong coaching staff giving support courtside, but there wasn’t even any “wailing or gnashing of teeth”.

The victory seemed assured, and UEA faded away rather than burning out – the only reaction sparked by the set-up was one of flickering hope crushed by all-consuming frustration.

Sean Harbottle




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November 2021
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