University Challenge Semi Final 1 : Monday 8pm BBC2
University of Manchester v. Lincoln College, Oxford
Matches aren't played on paper. On paper this would have been a contest that was too close to call. If you read my comments after the 4th quarter final last week you'll have seen how close the stats of these two teams were, with Lincoln College just having the edge between them. Looking at if from Lincoln's point of view, what went wrong ?
All seemed well at the start. Lincoln buzzed in to take the first starter along with bonuses. Then for the next ten minutes or so it was all Manchester. They were very assured on the buzzer, and very few bonuses slipped through their fingers. Last time we saw them it was Lincoln who were buzzing in to take almost all of the starters. Tonight, though, they were comprehensively beaten to the buzzer by a very good Manchester team. As time wore on, and Manchester's lead increased Lincoln College tried bravely to get back into the match, and thus found themselves having to jump the gun on the starters. As we have seen before, making a premature stab at a starter is a risky business, and it just didn't come off. Lincoln were actually better value tonight than their score suggests, and they are a better team than tonight's performance suggests. Chalk it down partly to the strength of the Manchester team, and partly to a bit of an off night, compared with their imperious performance in the quarters. Do not forget, this is a team that scored 335 in the quarter final, and beat St. John's Cambridge in the first round.
As for the final score, Manchester won by 345 to 30. In both the first and second round they were knocking on the door of 300 points with 285 and 280 respectively. Tonight they kicked that door wide open. This was all the more impressive for being achieved in a semi final.
So Manchester are through to the final. Should they face St. John's , then we have the interesting prospect of them playing a team who were beaten in the first round by the team that they have just beaten in the semis. Of course, the favourites to join them are Corpus Christi, Oxford. Its interesting to compare Manchester to Corpus Christi. In the quarters, Pertinez of Manchester dominated. Tonight he played his part, but you have to say that the rest of the team were all as good too. Tonight they looked the complete package. In their quarter final, Gail Trimble of Corpus Christi put on as good an individual performance as I've ever seen in UC. How will the rest of the Corpus Christi team perform if she has an off night ?
Well, we'll find out some more of the answers next week. Yes, I've tipped Corpus Christi and I'm happy to stick with them, but as tonight shows, past form is not necessarily any guide to what is going to happen. I can't wait.