Womenâ€™s Varsity Rugby Match at Twickenham (part 3)
by Alice Middleton on 1 March 2016
Arm in arm in a celebratory huddle at Twickenham, I try to take in the moment. I’m surrounded by a team of players and support staff that has been working hard for months, and in today’s Varsity Match we’ve achieved so much more than we could have imagined. I am sure none of us thought we could pull off a record-beating win at 52-0 for one! But importantly we all feel that, together with Oxford, we’ve put on an entertaining game of rugby and made the most of the fantastic stage we’ve been gifted.
So we peel off for a traditional rugby tunnel, where the teams clap each other through their squad in turn and exchange ‘well dones’. As I come through the Oxford players an important-looking chap catches my eye to inform me that I need to do an interview and collect my player of the match medal, yikes! I follow him toward the cameras and begin to wonder what I might say, but get distracted looking at my surroundings and all the supporters in the stands, how could I not!
The main thing I remember from this interview is that I didn’t really have an answer to one of his questions at the end and just said “I’m so happy!”… truly inspired (!)
This was a highlight though- the captain of the Cambridge Rugby team from the first Women’s Varsity match in 1989 presented me with the “Bunting-Peggers” medal, half named after her! Sophia Mirchandani (née Peggers) was really lovely, and what an honour to receive the medal from someone so instrumental to what had just happened! (And I was pretty chuffed to also receive a magnum of Pol Roger Champagne at this stage!)
As a team we then filed up the stairs to collect match tankards and the Varsity Trophy; another thing I recognise from the telly! Our wonderful “omnipresent” Captain, Nikki Weckman, was of course the first to lift the trophy to a huge cheer which marked another surreal-yet-wonderful moment that I hope I’ll never forget.
Next up we go for a victory lap and I manage to find my friends and family! I can’t really explain how happy this made me feel (but I’ll try); something that will probably always be important to me had happened over the last couple of hours, yet I only kind-of knew that they were there. Yes I had got them the tickets and I knew they were coming, but actually seeing them and sharing the moment with them was really special.
The rest of the victory lap involved autographs and ‘selfies’ with some of the schoolchildren that came to watch- this of course felt ridiculous, they now have an unknown signature and photos with some random rugby girl, but if some budding young rugby players were even just a little inspired then we’ve done something good!
Another press conference for being player of match put me in a rush to get changed (again, what is my life!?) but I got to the designated players corporate box in time to watch the first half of the Men’s match with my Mum, Dad and boyfriend. We watched the second half with the rest of my friends and family in the stands, and although the Men couldn’t emulate our victory I was still on cloud nine.
The rest of the day was spent with a very happy Cambridge Squad; after heading back to the hotel and changing we went for a reception dinner in London with the Oxford team. Of course we were still celebrating for Cambridge, but Women’s sport was central to so many conversations I had and we all hoped that today had provided a solid foundation for the Women’s Varsity Match for years to come.
I’m almost finished- but I can’t fail to mention the amazing amount of support I have had since that day, for one I don’t think my Facebook account has ever seen so much activity! Friends, colleagues and acquaintances from all over have been so lovely, and of course Lucy Cavendish has had many kind words for me, Lara and the team. Things like this have made all the hard work and preparation entirely worthwhile!
All in all this has been the most wonderful experience; I doubt I’ll ever beat it, but I’ll give it a go next year when I’m going back as captain!