Who Kept Their Cool to lift Caswell Cup in Costa Del Stockton?

 

Sunday 6th May marked another incredible day of pool in the Stephenson calendar with the second installment of The Caswell Cup. So named after a recent Stephenson alumnus and pool captain, the event takes place once a year and aims to find the best of the best in Stephenson’s pool community over a grueling afternoon.

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The Caswell Cup basks in the incredible Bank Holiday sunshine

With the weather peaking at roughly 23 degrees Celsius, conditions inside our very own crucible (Room 21) were stifling and players were forced to gather around the large fans in the room between shots for a little bit of relief from the heat. 11 names went into the hat at the start of the tournament and were drawn into two leagues, with the top two players from each league meeting in the semi-finals.

In usual Stephenson fashion, no winner emerged from the off and pre-tournament favourites all suffered defeats in their respective leagues. We even lost two past captains, including the man after whom the trophy is named, in the group stages as the games, and clock, ticked slowly on. After what seemed like days due to the heat, we eventually found our semi finalists in the form of A team player Craig Young and captain Joe Hardaker, and B team player Josh Crawshaw and captain Deniz Taylor – the only man to escape the group stages unbeaten!

As Taylor finished top of group 1, he was pitted against group 2’s runner up, and fellow Stephenson pool team captain, Hardaker for the semi final, leaving Young and Crawshaw to battle it out in the other semi final. Both semi finals saw the A team players assert their dominance with Young racing into a 5-2 lead during the race to 6, and Hardaker never being behind throughout the encounter.

Indeed, both games finished with a fair score line of six frames to four and saw Hardaker make his way into the Caswell Cup final for a second successive year, continuing his fine individual form having already lifted the Stephenson College JCR Pool Competition trophy in December. Meanwhile, this was Young’s first semi final victory in a Stephenson pool competition, at the third time of asking.

So far in the day, Young had been the only player to have stopped Hardaker, trouncing him 4-1 during the group stages to take the group, and it looked set to be heading to a similar storyline when Young took a 2-0 lead early on with some incredible and ruthless play. Hardaker offered brief resistance taking the third frame but when Young extended his lead to 3-1 it looked set to be another year of disappointment for Hardaker.

Digging deep, Hardaker managed to snatch the next two frames to level at 3-3 and took a third successive frame to move in front for the first time in the match. The next three were split, due to a bit of good fortune for Young, 2:1 in his favour, despite Hardaker looking set to take another and open a two-frame advantage. This left the game poised in the balance at 5 apiece and when Hardaker took the next frame, the pattern of the game so far meant it was pretty much even money to go to a decider. But, as we know, nothing is a certainty in sport and with Young going in off, Hardaker was afforded two shots with 5 balls on the table. A calm, and uneventful, clearance of his 5 reds left Hardaker with 2 shots on the black, however he was only to need one as he stroked the black into the top pocket from the bottom third of the table.

Celebrations were muted as eight hours of play had taken its toll on both men, but a firm handshake shrouded in mutual respect was a fitting end to the marathon day. The event really did bring a pleasant end to what has been a wonderful pool season for everyone at Stephenson, and with that we sign off with a very warm goodbye and hope that we see an even more successful campaign next year!

An Interview with Stevo’s BUCS National Champions

This week I had the distinct pleasure of catching up with two of the four of our students, Isaac Perry and James Spicer, who have recently achieved University sporting greatness by lifting a BUCS National Championship with the Durham Saints American Football team. The team defeated Derby for the third time in the season by a score line of 17-6 to end their season undefeated and I managed to get the insight of two of the defensive line who were on the ground at the Sixways Stadium.

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Durham’s #23 Spicer prepares to defend a Derby play seconds before the snap

Q: Gentlemen, you sit in front of me as National Champions. How does it feel to hear that?

Isaac: I can’t lie that does feel great. Weeks later, I still don’t know how to express it properly, but knowing I got to be part of such a great team with all the talent on the field and the personalities off it is pretty special…. The added label of National Champions is a bonus.

James: It’s a great feeling! Having lost in the national final last year by a missed kick it was such a great experience to be on the winning end this year and it was even sweeter knowing we finished the season 11-0.

Q: Now, despite being National Champions, I know both of you are fairly new to the sport. When did you both start playing?

Isaac: I have dabbled in the past attending a couple training sessions as a Fresher but this was my first year playing the sport properly.

James: I started playing last year as a Fresher having watched the sport for a few years before. There really aren’t any British players who come to University already having played the sport.

Q: Having never played in a National Championship for anything, can you describe the process for me? Is it just like a normal game where you get the coach to the ground or are there a few extra perks?

Isaac: Running out onto the pitch really with the crowd getting loud really got the juices flowing, there was also a ‘mini’ national anthem adding to the professionalism. Additionally, as the game was further away than usual we got a hotel overnight and included the all-important buffet breakfast, which was certainly a nice perk. I certainly wouldn’t mind having that luxury for every game!

Post-game was where the perks really came through, if I’m not mistaken we were posted in the VIP box. There was an open bar for us to open some Champagne and celebrate as well as countless pizzas available to us after the game.

James: As for the day of the game, our preparation doesn’t change, only the atmosphere we are in but it is completely different. We arrive seeing the Division One final being played which allows us time to check out all the camera crew and BAFA (British American Football Association) officials. Also, the facilities are much nicer than the cramped changing rooms we are used to for most of the year!

Q: What’s it like to play in a full stadium in front of a crowd, as well as being streamed to the entire world on YouTube?

Isaac: I do think the stadium alone added to the games atmosphere. The crowd were really energetic and supportive (for both sides) right until the final whistle which was brilliant. Knowing we were being streamed to the entire world did make me nervous, after hearing there would be thousands tuning in I felt the pressure more so than normal. Saying that, I loved that all my friends and family were able to watch and support myself and the team.

James: Having already experienced this the year before as a fresher it wasn’t that overwhelming. However, when you’re playing you’re only focused on what’s in front of you, not who or how many people are watching. The best part of the stream for me was knowing all our old teammates were able to watch from places like America.

Q: I suspect the whole occasion was a bit of a whirlwind and remembering what happened is difficult but are there any standout moments from the game? (We won’t hold it against you if you’re a bit selfish here and mention a moment of personal glory).

Isaac: To be honest, simply being chosen as a starter in the National Championship ahead of a couple ‘veterans’ as a ‘rookie’ (as they’d be referred to in the NFL) was a standout moment for me. But, one of the best moments has to be when Eric Poindexter (our Quarterback, who is actually a wide receiver) came on the field for the defense in the final quarter and broke up a deep pass with a really athletic play on the ball.

James: Probably getting a shout out during the halftime discussion on the live stream for a standout first half performance. Especially as it was by one of my brother’s coaches from Birmingham’s team!

Isaac: Oh and we can hardly forget the moment the final whistle blows! Giving the coach an early shower (pouring the water cooler over him), and the whole team jumping up and down is a memory I’ll never forget.

Q: American Football is a growing sport within the country and obviously you are both now National Champions, so do you see this as being the start of your affinity with the sport?

Isaac: I certainly like that idea; as I’m graduating this year the National Championship may have been my final game, and now that I’ve lived it I’ll definitely do my part in promoting the game in the future as it would be great for the sport to continue growing at the rate it is!

James: As far as playing goes I’ll be pushing for my third national final visit in three years during my final year. But apart from that, I won’t be doing more than watching the sport and going to the occasional Durham game in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me gents, I really appreciate it and hope that you get that opportunity for a third National Championship game next time around James! 

 

JoBo Take Varsity Trophy After 25.5-13.5 Win

The inaugural College Varsity match between Stephenson College and Josephine Butler College is sure to go down in the annals of history as a clash for the ages. Dubbed as ‘The Battle of the Howlands’, it was truly about much more than sport. The University’s decision to move Stephenson from their home in Stockton has led to a degree of criticism over the last eighteen months, but students from the College are starting to adapt to the thought of leaving Teeside and this match has certainly whet their appetite for what Durham City has to offer. In truth the event was about building relationships and it certainly succeeded in doing that.

Officially the biggest varsity held at Maiden Castle (and a few other venues), there was no doubt during the organisation of the event that we were set to start a very special tradition for our two colleges. Spearheading the organisation were both JCR’s Sports and Societies Officer (Iona Jervis for Stephenson and Lewis Wright for Butler) along with the wonderful support of Team Durham’s Director of College Sport, LJ Crawford, and it is important here to praise all of these people and the unnamed others who worked tirelessly to ensure the (mainly) smooth running of the event.

However, all of that organisation had to lead somewhere and so we must shift focus now to the sporting endeavor exhibited throughout the day. Table tennis kicked us off at Maiden Castle as the 10am fixture and started well for Team Stevo with Michael Song taking a hard fought first match 2 games to 1. The small Stephenson crowd grew excited at the thought that we may take the first point of the day, but it was not to be as Butler showed their class by taking the next 5 matches to win 5-1. So 1-0 Butler and on to squash…

Having sourced a team for squash, captain Craig Young was confident of a hard fought contest and a Stephenson win. However, it was clear from the off that Stephenson had really underestimated the talent that Butler brought with them and quickly surrendered to a 3-0 deficit and defeat in the match overall. Despite this, the team soldiered on and managed to retain their pride by winning the next two matches to make the final score 3-2 to Butler.

Another 1 point fixture in the bag for Butler and it was beginning to seem like Stevo would never get on the board in this inaugural varisty. This thought was confounded when Ultimate Frisbee and Mixed Lacrosse, who led at one point, went down 10-4 and 6-2 respectively. 8-0 to Butler in the overall standings was starting to make for bleak reading for the travelling fans. Then came the heroics, Stevo’s first points were put on the board from a 5-5 draw in the Women’s Football (only denied 3 points by a contentious offside decision) and this was quickly followed by a huge 4 point win for the mixed A and B pool team.

This brought it back to 9.5 – 5.5 and what was to come next was truly breathtaking. In the individual performance of the day, Ciaran Baker, rowed on the ergo machine for an incredible 29,000 metres (more than 9x the distance that Butler rowed) to give Stevo an incredible overall 1 point and to take Stevo within 3!

This obviously put some wind in the sails of Butler’s athletes as they took both the mixed and women’s Netball matches to open up a seven-point lead. Staring defeat in the face Stevo needed something special at this point and got it with the team performance of the day from Men’s Rugby who ran over the Butler team in a 55-10 romp! Badminton soon followed with a 3-point victory to take us within 3 again and to spark huge excitement that we may actually take this a lot closer than we initially thought.

Indeed, as the sun set on a glorious day at Maiden Castle, our mixed hockey team took to the pitch and what followed was the sporting event of the year for Stevo Rangers. Coming together for one special game, there weren’t many who thought much of Team Stevo’s chances here, especially considering the difficulties the women’s team have had thus far. Nevertheless, an enthralling match unfolded with Stevo pushing Butler to their limits and incredibly running out as winners on penalty flicks after a 2-2 draw. Unbelievable scenes followed with Stevo back level for the first time since before the contest began and true belief filled the hearts of the adoring Stevo Rangers in attendance. Optimism for the remaining fixtures was high, however that was to all come crashing down as Stevo failed to register a point after this and finished with a 12 point deficit and defeat in the inaugural ‘Battle of the Howlands’.

As a Stevo Ranger to the core, the defeat sustained on Saturday is not one to dwell upon but a performance to be incredibly proud of. Indeed, moving forward to the future I hope to see the trophy become a semi-permanent fixture in Stephenson Central as we establish our sporting dominance on the Howlands site!

Gallery:

 

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Mixed Netball Teams – Literally!
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Our Girls Can’t Stop Smiling Despite Defeat for the Netball As
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It’s a LAX Thing
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Winning Stevo’s First Point of the Day Feels Good!

The Unlikely Sport Pulling In Similar Crowds To Some Premier League Clubs

I have enjoyed ice hockey ever since I was young and my parents bought me NHL Hitz 2003 for my GameCube (an incredible game on a fantastic console). However, until December I had only managed to satisfy this enjoyment by the occasional watching of Disney’s The Mighty Ducks or a YouTube session watching highlights of the Stanley Cup. However, over the Christmas vacation, I managed to experience live ice hockey for the first time and ever since I have been completely hooked.

Now I have to make it clear here that I didn’t make a transatlantic trip to experience the glitz of the NHL, although one day I’m sure I will. No, instead I was bought tickets for the Elite Ice Hockey League fixture between Sheffield Steelers and Manchester Storm.

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Balance, speed and incredible co-ordination is required to play this incredible sport!

Entering the arena I anticipated a few hundred in the crowd and paper programs for 50p but what I saw completely changed my opinion. As I entered the arena there was a full merchandise stand with high quality jerseys, t-shirts, car accessories, key rings, hats, scarves etcetera etcetera, the list goes on. There were sellers at every door pedaling high quality, professionally printed programs and raffle tickets galore. Now this really was a surprise to me, surely this is a little bit over the top for the few hundred fans that are going to actually turn up right?

Wrong. As I entered through the arena doors to where the rink sat I was greeted by the roar of nearly 9000 fans. Now let me just contextualise that. Bournemouth, a Premier League football team, currently have an average attendance of just over 10,000 per game. Football is our national sport and the Premier League is a global attraction and therefore for the Steelers, who I’m presuming many of you haven’t heard of, to get 9000 for an ice hockey game is an incredible effort. Ice hockey in the UK is a big business.

Steelers Blog

However, my awe and amazement did not stop there. Ice hockey matches really are a spectacle to behold from the off with each player coming out to a darkened arena with a spotlight following them. After this, in true American style, the teams line up for the National Anthem.

Then, and only after all of the showbiz, the game begins. A high-octane, fast paced action fest with huge tackles, fistfights and plenty of skill is all captured in real time, and in slow motion replays on the big screen. However, what I applauded above all of the big hits and incredible hand eye co-ordination was the unbelievable ease with which these players maneuvered their bodies around what was effectively a frozen 7-a-side football pitch. I’m sure many of you reading have had the pleasure of finding a patch of ice on the QC astroturf and therefore for these men to stay up right, let alone duck, dive and turn on a sixpence, with only a few millimetres of metal providing any friction with the frozen ground is absolutely mesmerising.

I’m sure its clear here how much I really enjoyed my first experience of watching professional ice hockey. But, at risk of sounding too sycophantic, I think that regardless of your preference for sports, this one is truly spectator focused and is a spectacle to behold. I would suggest that if you’re looking for something to do you check out your nearest Elite League club and watch a game – it’s well worth it for a fantastic day out.

A Social Sport: Mixed Lacrosse

Mixed lacrosse isn’t your average sports team when it comes to socials. We think it’s equally as important to enjoy each other’s company as much as we enjoy lacrosse. From a meal at spoons to jumping around in a trampoline park, we put on a wide range of socials to cater to our players’ wishes and I’m pretty sure you’ll agree by the end of this article that we certainly manage that.

The LaX idea of a social is simply to have good time and to bond as a team and this is why we like to have socials that go against the norm – especially if you see the events of the night on Snapchat! One recent example of our antics is our pizza social where we came together and each dressed as a different pizza topping. Donned as our favourite toppings, we arrived at one of the team’s house to eat pizza, play some Italian themed games and exchange Secret Santa gifts – and then some of the team decided to head out to Ku.

A slightly less fancy dress focused event we hosted was our trip to Jump 360, which was a lot of fun! Although, as a Captain I did feel ever so slightly uneasy as my players attempted front flips and hit each other with dodge balls. Nevertheless, it was just great to see my team having an all-round fab time.

Furthermore, in previous years we have been ice-skating and even had an end of year barbecue during ReFreshers. All of these were a great success and everyone always really looks forward to the socials we put on, especially as we try to make each one better than the last.

Lacrosse to us is more than a sports team; it’s more like a family! I know I can’t say for definite that this is down to our socials but I certainly feel that the amount of times we see each other outside of training and games helps.

Upcoming socials for LaX include I’m a celebrity Jungle themed night where will be playing games like Jungle Speed (check it out, you won’t be sorry!). We are always open for more ideas so join us so we can keep coming up with more fun and unique socials especially as we are using the money that the JCR holds for us to reimburse any food or soft drinks we bought. In fact there really is no better time to join as the JCR has just passed a motion to give sports teams and societies £10 per person for a social each term with the requirement that it not be spent on alcohol related activities.

By Finn McCabe (Business and Management Year 2)

Stephenson Fall At The First Hurdle

Stephenson College v St Cuthbert’s

Friday 8th December – 8:30pm Kick-off

St Cuthbert’s 26-19 Stephenson

Stephenson Tries: J Brown, J Crawshaw, B Newton

Stephenson Conversions: S Pinnock (x2)

Stephenson Team:

1 – Ben Newton

2 – Daniel Broughton

3 – Greg Russell

4 – Nkwizire Ndzi

5 – Paul Levallois

6 – Richard Skinner

7 – Joshua Brown (c)

8 – Dominic Augutus

9 – Sam Holroyd

10 – Sam Pinnock

11 – Sam Barnes

12 – Joshua Crawshaw

13 – Nathan Allan

14 – Tomas Varga

15 – Jack Dennis

Subs:

16 – Cameron Herbert

17 – Michael Najjarr

18 – George Douglas

19 – James Rosawno

20 – James Christain

With a struggling start to the season, Stephenson College Rugby Team looked forward to a double-header game against St. Cuthbert’s in the floodlit cup. The squad arrived at 7pm on the team coach (a few Corsas and Crawshaw’s excuse of car). Once the shirts were distributed and the lads were ready, we took to the pitch, on what I can confirm was a bitter night.

Before the boys began their warmup, the two coaches, Stephen Hall and Alexander Nikolatos (Did you know they play DU Rugby?), led a team talk. After a thorough warmup and the arrival of the travelling fans, kick off was upon us.

*** Stephenson won the toss and decided to kick ***

Sam Pinnock kicked towards the Cuthbert’s team and with a solid chase from the Stephenson squad, the carnage began. Obviously pumped for the big game, the tackles flew in from every direction and a huge shout out must go to Richard Skinner, Dominic Augutus and Nkwizire Ndzi for their incredible defensive performance. After a calm first 10 minutes, Cuthbert’s capitalised on a mistake from Stephenson. They spread the ball wide with quick hands and managed to put it down in the corner. The only real consolation being that Cuths missed the conversion.

** Stephenson 0 – 5 Cuthberts **

After a chat under the sticks, the Stephenson team took to the half way line to retain possession. After a solid collective performance and some hard running by the forward pack, Stephenson were awarded a penalty in Cuthbert’s 22. Pinnock took the decision to go for touch and with pinpoint accuracy handed Stephenson a lineout 5 metres out from the Cuthbert’s try line. Lineout won, the Stephenson forwards huddled to maul the ball over and captain Brown managed to be the man to touch down for another ‘meat pie’ (try). An equalising try set the fans alight and a conversion would have sent them into raptures however Pinnock sliced the conversion.

** Stephenson 5 – 5 Cuthbert’s **

With the lads knowing a tight game was on the cards, we tried to play a slow game but despite dominating the scrums and lineouts Cuthbert’s continued to play on silly mistakes made by our boys and managed to go over again, this time ensuring the conversion was made. With the first half coming to an end and the supporters flocking to the warmth of Maiden Castle a big team talk was needed to ensure Stephenson stayed in this one.

** Half time Stephenson 5 – 12 Cuthbert’s **

Indeed, whatever the coaches said to Stephenson did seem to have an impact and the lads started strongly with big carries from Greg Russell, Cameron Herbert and Paul Levallois. However, despite their hardwork the team were undone once again by our own mistakes, ultimately leading to two converted tries for Cuths. At 26-5 down, it looked like the end.

** Stephenson 5 – 26 Cuthbert’s **

Despite the score, Stephenson continued to push for a result, and were rewarded for their efforts and collective hard work soon after with a try from resident big-man Crawshaw and converted by our very own Owen Farrell, Sam Pinnock.

** Stephenson 12 – 26 Cuthbert’s **

Now I’m actually going to have to apologise here as I sadly took a knee to the face and I can’t actually remember what happened for the remainder of the second half. However, I have been told by Stephen Hall and Alexander Nikolatas that the lads continued to play a well-structured game which resulted in Ben Newton going over the white wash in the last moments and Pinnock converting. Indeed, this last minute try left the game with a well deserved and respectable one try score 26-19.

I could not be any prouder of the boys that took to the field and we cannot wait to see what’s in store for us after the Christmas break as we continue to improve together as a team. Finally, I would like to thank the fans that came to watch, despite the cold conditions, and I hope you all had a wonderful experience and join us again soon.

 

Hardaker Dishes Out Defeat In Exhilarating Final

 

Thursday 7th December saw two titans of the Stephenson College Pool club go head to head in the highly anticipated climax to the JCR Pool Competition. A team Captain Hardaker was searching for a first competitive pool competition win at Stephenson at his third time of asking, whilst rookie Pinnock was starting to hit the form that a captain, at any other time, would be ecstatic about.

Starting with 25 in mid-October the competition saw some shock exits throughout, including the as yet undefeated in the league duo of Martin Long and George Bailey. Indeed, it was Pinnock who claimed the scalp of one of the competition favourites Bailey in the Semi Final stage, dispatching him in an 8-2 drubbing. Conversely, Hardaker had the semi final challenge of removing the reigning champion and past A team captain Andrew Moy, doing so with a nervy 8-6 victory. With victories like these, nobody could say that these two didn’t deserve their place at the table for the final and they were about to prove that to the loyal fans of the game that gathered to spectate.

Pinnock and I

The build up to the final saw plenty of talk from both camps and although much of it was in jest, an air of truth rang through; both men believed this was their time for glory. After a thorough table clean and a new set of balls (all courtesy of, and a huge thank you to, our helpful friends at Room 21) the time was here to stop the talking, or so we thought, and start the playing. Entering to One More Time by Daft Punk, Hardaker had the fixed gaze of a man who knew this really was his last chance to crown what had been a rather mediocre pool-playing career at Stephenson as he made his way to his seat and poured a glass of water.

Me pool blog

However, his rather somber and understated entrance was to be somewhat overshadowed by what happened next. Pinnock, with a swagger to match his entrance music, entered to Theory of a Deadman’s No Chance in Hell (better known as WWE’s Vince McMahon’s entrance music) and proceeded to stare Hardaker down as he circled the arena.

Pinnock blog

After what seemed like years of showboating from Pinnock and the pre-match photographs being taken by JCR Photographer Shivam Nathwani, it was finally time for referee Craig Young to rack them up and the game to begin.

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Hardaker took a tense first frame and looked fairly confident as he approached the table to break for the second frame, however Pinnock was to take the next and this pattern continued for much of the game with neither player ever taking more than a one frame lead for the first 14 frames. Some extraordinary pool was played throughout these 14 frames including an exceptional black up the rail from Hardaker and some impeccable snookers from Pinnock however the main talking point that arose from the match came in the 5th frame. With the game delicately poised at 2-2 Hardaker picked the cue ball out of the pocket for Pinnock, a blatant disregard of the rules which many thought would be brushed aside. However, ruthlessly Pinnock decided to throw the proverbial book at Hardaker and took the frame.

Controversy aside, the match ambled on to 7-6 in Pinnock’s favour and looked set to go the distance when Hardaker leveled at 7 apiece however Hardaker finally did what had been illusive to both men taking the next two frames to establish more than a one frame advantage.

At 9-7, Pinnock required 3 straight frames to take the trophy and had a good chance to take one back as he and Hardaker locked horns on a tactical black ball battle. However, Pinnock made the fatal error of going in off leaving Hardaker with two shots and only the black to pot. A delicate first shot took the tricky black off of the bottom cushion and set up the prospect of a fairly straightforward cut back into the bottom pocket for Hardaker to take the trophy. Hardaker obliged the crowd dutifully, potting the black and with a quick glance behind to ensure the cue ball had stopped rolling the game was done.

A handshake and embrace met Hardaker as he set his cue down, Pinnock the first to offer his congratulations embodying, as always, the epitome of sportsmanship after what had been a long and grueling contest.

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And so the curtain drew on this year’s competition with Hardaker lifting the trophy after a 10-7 victory. The pool has been, in parts, fluid and the trophy will awaits another in future years, however all that is left to say now is see you in May for the Caswell Cup!