Razor-thin victory for the Blades against Durham

A chilly Newcastle Fencing Centre hosted the Blades’ victories and defeats. Image: Clara Pettitt

A long, wintery afternoon of fencing kicked off with the Blades’ men’s seconds in action against their Northern 2B counterparts, the Durham thirds.

Newcastle went into the fixture with confidence knowing that they already had a game and head-to-head advantage in the league over their opponents, after a convincing 125-95 win away at Maiden Castle

With no points to separate the two, Durham looked to eliminate Newcastle’s head-to-head advantage with a win out in Benfield, but that is far easier said than done, as only league-leaders Northumbria firsts have taken points off Newcastle at the fortress.

The two sides battled in the sabre first, with Matt Dugher convincingly beating Tom Spencer 5-2. Daniel Nicholson then added to Newcastle’s lead after nicking the win against Mark Lee. Durham then hit back through Jon Pritchett, turning the game on its head by sending the away side into a 15-12 lead.

The two sides battled in the sabre first, with Matt Dugher convincingly beating Tom Spencer 5-2

Leading into the last match-up, Durham held a 40-36 lead. Max Sharp had appeared nonchalant in his early matches, and Nicholson had one blip against Spencer, so it was up to Dugher to turn it around. Sabre in hand, he did just that, winning 9-4 to clinch the first of three weapons 45-44.

In the epée, Durham took control of the tie. Sharp absolutely redeemed himself, wining crucial fights against Pritchett, Spencer and Matthew Bonini. Nicholson also played well, winning his first encounter and drawing his second, so he looked in a good position to turn around the 40-39 deficit. However, Durham captain Pritchett, putting Durham 89-84 ahead overall, scored all five points without return.

Following the epée, the two teams took back to the piste to fight with the next weapon, the foil. Here foil-specialist Max Sharp played a blinder, winning all three of his fights, the first two being against Ryutaro Kikuchi and Andrea Pozzetti.

Sharp was pitted against Pritchett in the final clash of with the foil, with Newcastle narrowly trailing 124-125 overall. In a masterclass in patience and composure, Sharp won the bout 5-3 to take all three point in the fixture, sealing a 129-128 win overall.

Simultaneous to the men’s seconds fixture, Newcastle’s men’s first side took on a high-flying Leicester in a heavyweight Premier North bout.

Looking at the table before the tie, not many punters would’ve backed the Blades to beat Leicester, as Newcastle footed the table with zero points after the first six fixtures. In contrast, Leicester had been having an unexpectedly successful season.

According to Leicester’s Aidan Michaels, this was down to very few players graduating, and being lucky with the crop of master’s students and freshers that came into the team this year. Michaels added that he wouldn’t expect the team to perform anywhere else next year.

Opening with the epée, Leiecester quickly established a clear advantage. Being their best weapon, Leicester were able to cruise past Newcastle, who weren’t able to get the better of their opponents in any of the individual bouts.

In the sabre, Newcastle demonstrated their true calibre, as scholar Ginn Artesi won all three of his fights

Leicester’s Phil Huard wrapped up the tie, beating Sammy Hang 5-4 in the final fight to establish a 45-27 lead. Navneet Kandhari started for Newcastle, matching his energetic fencing with equally passionate vocals.

Throughout, Newcastle put up close battles, with Stefan Chiu getting the better of Huard, showing their strength of character not to roll over. Nevertheless, Leicester ended with a 45-32 win, giving them a 90-59 lead.

In the sabre, Newcastle demonstrated their true calibre, as scholar Ginn Artesi won all three of his fights, and Kandhari even notched up a 5-0 win in his first bout with the third and final weapon. Despite the 45-37 victory, Leicester still triumphed with an overall score of 127-103.

Even though their season has defied all expectations, Leicester have no chance of catching Durham, who are nine points clear with three fixtures still to play. Newcastle remain at the foot of the table, with a very slim hope of staying up.

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