ST ANDREWS 1STS 110
MANCHEST’R 1STS 129
St Andrews Men’s 1STS fencing team suffered defeat to a strong Manchester 1sts team by 129 points to 110 on Wednesday 16th of November. The Saints have enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Manchester in recent times, losing both league games last year but beating them in the semi-finals of the BUCS Championship finals.
Coming into this game both teams were equal on points in the league and were battling for the privilege of getting into second place behind a dominant Edinburgh team.
However, first Saints would have to get through a Manchester team that had lost narrowly to table-toppers Edinburgh and comfortably beaten a Loughborough team that had made short work of St Andrews the week before.
The St Andrews line-up looked strong on paper but was shorn of two key fencers in the foil and sabre bouts. This did not appear to inconvenience them at the start of the foil contest as they raced into the lead thanks to some sharp work by Cesar Diaz-Gonzalez.
By the end of bout two, Manchester had pulled some points back through the confident and competent performance of Jason Shillingford, who made short work of the heavy-footed Darran Milne.
From then on in, the foil contest was something of a procession for Manchester. The outstanding Andrew Fenwick brushed aside Laurence Carrick and Diaz-Gonzalez, who only managed to land two hits between them, while Shillingford was clinical in dispatching his opponents in his next two bouts.
The final score of 45-26 in Manchester’s favour was a reasonable reflection of their dominance but St Andrews were hopeful that Diaz-Gonzalez, Carrick and captain James McDonagh could redress the balance in the sabre contest.
After the first four bouts, this hope looked futile as Manchester raced into a 20-10 lead, Shillingford this time swiftly dispatching two opponents while only receiving two hits himself.
However, in a spectacular display in the fifth round, Diaz-Gonzalez demolished
Fenwick by 15 points to four. As he continually failed to make an impression on his opponents defence, the Irishman’s attacks grew wilder and wilder. Diaz-Gonzalez sat back and soaked it up before again and again darting past Fenwick’s blade.
By the end of the bout, St Andrews were ahead for the first time since the opening exchanges. They narrowly lost the next bout but with three to go and at just two points down, the atmosphere was tense as both teams sensed this was the tipping point.
Victory for the Saints would allow them to make a push for victory in their strongest category while victory for the English university would make the match safe for them.
The next two bouts were won by Manchester, leaving St Andrews needing 11 points to win the sabre contest. Despite his earlier heroics, Diaz-Gonzalez only managed four hits and Manchester won 45-38.
This meant the cumulative score heading into the epeé contest was 90-64 and with only 45 more points on offer, the Saints had the tough task of restricting Manchester to 18 points or fewer in order to win the contest.
This was always going to be too much for a St Andrews team that never really fought to its potential and so it proved, Manchester reaching safety in the fifth bout of the epeé fight. However, this came during a markedly improved display from St Andrews.
Despite Milne’s continued struggles, Hugh Oberlander and Simone Manzini fought well, both winning two bouts and Oberlander drawing his bout with the ever-present Fenwick. The latter had the privilege of facing up to Manzini in the last fight of the afternoon in what proved to be a very tense bout.
Although Manchester needed 13 hits to win the contest, the Irishman came onto the piste obviously intending to fight for the win and it took all of Manzini’s skill to keep his opponent to just six points in collecting the five hits necessary for St Andrews to win the epeé contest 45-38 in an overall losing cause.
‘On paper we were as good, or maybe even slightly better than [Manchester], but we did not play like it,’ said a the disappointed Saints coach Mark McKenzie.
Captain McDonagh thought the reasons for their loss were slightly different. ‘We were missing two players, a saberist and a foilist. Those were the two contests we lost so if they had been here…’