The annual canoe polo competition kicked off at Glasgow’s Stevenson Building, with the nation’s finest descending on the West End to compete for the sport’s most coveted prize.
In stark contrast to numerous university sports fixtures, where spectators frequently number in single figures, the event saw the Stevenson Building in full carnival swing, with vociferous fans lining the poolside, whilst at times the whole building seemed to rock as an endless array of 80s hits thundered out over the heads of the crowd.
Organiser and women’s captain, Lorna Denny admitted nerves in the build up to the spectacle, “What with the snow this week, it was really touch and go about whether Aberdeen were going to make it. Thankfully they have and I think it’s going to be a really fantastic weekend”
The two day extravaganza began in front of a raucous crowd, with a city derby match which saw the Glasgow women’s second team clinically dismantled by a superior Strathclyde outfit, who sent out an early message of intent with a crushing 10-0 victory over the home side. This scoreline could have been a much more bitter pill for the GU team to swallow, had it not been for the heroics of Ali Macleod in goal, stopping the visitors’ tally from climbing further.
The Glasgow ladies’ first team restored university pride, with a performance that highlighted the reasons why they have yet to be defeated this season. Led by captain Lorna Denny, they comprehensively outclassed the Napier outfit, and attacked with such flair and flamboyance that for large spells of the match, the Edinburgh side could do nothing more than simply chase shadows. Glasgow eventually ran out convincing 5-0 winners in the match.
After a couple of fairly one-sided matches, the tournament really sprang into life with Glasgow’s men’s team taking on Heriot Watt, in a high-octane match with such a degree of physicality that it was no surprise to learn that there was ‘history’ between the sides. Glasgow’s Teng Wei Keong orchestrated proceedings with a display that reflected why he is so highly regarded in canoe polo circles. The Singaporean has recently battled his way into the national set up, and whilst other players blustered around the pool, he seemed to be able to effortlessly dictate passages of play.
At times you could be mistaken for thinking him disinterested, but time after time, he exploded through the Edinburgh side’s defensive ranks. Eventually, he discovered his range with devastating effect, and within a couple of quick breaks had ensured the game was put to bed.
The second day of competition saw both of Glasgow’s first teams cruise through their respective group stages and into the finals, with such an ominous amount of ease that both looked destined to retain the most highly regarded trophy in Scottish canoe polo.
The women’s final saw Glasgow take on their old foes St Andrews, perhaps the only side currently able to challenge Glasgow University’s monopoly on the sport.
That said, anyone hoping for a major shock was to be disappointed as Glasgow exploded from the start, and despite playing the majority of the match without captain Denny, the game was all but over by half time.
After losing their captain, it was left to the duo of Amy Cowell and Cath Johnstone to terrorise St Andrews and lead GUCC ladies to a resounding 5-1 triumph, completing a perfect season for the team. Such have been the ladies high standards this year, there seemed to be a visible disappointment in conceding a late consolation goal to the Fifers, yet the final whistle still sparked mass celebration amongst the Glaswegian team and their support.
The men’s final saw Glasgow take on this year’s surprise outfit, Strathclyde. Glasgow spent the majority of the first period camped in their own half as their city rivals piled on the pressure in the pool. Regardless of this, one pirouette from Teng Wei Keong turned defence into attack, and his through ball found Colin McMorrin in acres of space, leaving him free to slot home the goal from close range.
At times in the tournament Teng Wei was simply untouchable, and it seemed fitting that it was he who rounded off the competition in style. Picking up the ball in his own half, he unleashed an unstoppable rocket, with fans and opposition alike stopping to applaud this prodigious talent.
Both teams now progress to the BUCS Cup to compete against the top teams from the UK’s universities, where they will be looking to add to the season’s already extensive collection of silverware. Given the blistering performances on home turf in this competition, they will certainly advance as one of the favourites to take victory in the competition.