High-flying Premier Division St Catherine’s crashed out of their second knockout tournament of the season as the return of Blues’ captain Leo Ackermann to the Somerville side helped to consign them to a 6-3 extra-time defeat, in blizzard-like conditions more reminiscent of Méribel than Marston.
Heading into the game on the back of a 2-2 league draw away to Jesus the day prior, Catz were yet to go consecutive games this season without winning and duly illustrated their propensity to bounce back by taking an early foothold in the game and going 1-0 to the good.
But Somerville, without a cup win since October 2017, refused to lie down and striker Ned Ashcroft struck twice to shock the tie and reverse the momentum. When George Kerr then produced a sublime 25-yard lob to give ‘Ville a 3-1 lead going into half-time, a huge upset began to materialise, along with an epic snowstorm, reducing visibility considerably.
With boulders of snow lashing down and coating the pitch an icy white, the quality of football began to descend into the realms of scrappy, playing into the hands of an off-colour but remarkably resilient Catz side, who mustered two late goals to take the tie into extra time.
Still though, Somerville came back for more, pushing to avoid the lottery of penalties; Ned Ashcroft completed his hat-trick amid a late triumvirate of goals and Somerville held firm to seal their fate, and a quarter-final place. In his match report, captain Zander Watson told: ‘Never have I seen such scenes and never do I imagine I’ll see anything like it for years to come.’
Having knocked out the side at the apex of the college football ladder, their reward is a visit from the side just one rung lower, second placed St John’s. Having lost in the Hassan’s Cup final last season, John’s are primed to go one better this time around having exited Cuppers in a tight-fought battle with New, and they booked their place in the next round with a 2-0 victory over LMH.
Pembroke continued the red-hot form that sees them opening up a considerable advantage in their bid to regain Premier Division status, registering a fourth consecutive victory – and their sixth in seven games – in beating a struggling Hilda’s side 3-0. The leading scorers in any division, and with 40 goals in all competitions already, Pembroke hold strong claims to being favourite in the tournament; next up, however, they travel to face a Keble side who are fresh from dumping out reigning champions St Anne’s, perhaps pointedly also the only side to defeat Pembroke in the league.
Two of only four teams not to win a league game this season, Queen’s defeated fellow First Division relegation candidates Balliol 4-2 at home. A quirk of the draw, the fixture was a repeat of their first-round Cuppers match, which Balliol won 3-0; the Broad street college were then knocked out by Christ Church, whilst Queen’s cruised past Univ 7-0 to set up their successful revenge attempt. The two sides have now met three times already, a different outcome prevailing each time. Queen’s now come up against further First Division opposition St Hugh’s, who beat Lincoln 6-2 back in Michaelmas. Hugh’s have already beaten Queen’s once, but the tie smacks of parity – the sides have conceded 3.2 (Hugh’s) and 3.3 goals per game – and could well be a high-scoring affair.
The last tie in the next round pits Brasenose, the sole representative in and leaders of the Third Division, against Premier Division side Jesus. Brasenose needed extra-time to see off Merton/Mansfield but scored four in the period to secure a deserved victory; the best league defence have conceded only five goals in five games, but have also eclipsed that in one cup game, exiting Cuppers 6-1 to holders Worcester. Jesus went 1-0 down to Trinity – one place below Brasenose – but eventually overcame them to win 4-1 and will again boast home advantage, after a locked gate at the Trinity grounds forced their match to be re-routed to their pitches just ten minutes before kick-off.