Monday, 23 February 2009

Stop Press - University Challenge Grand Final

University Challenge Grand Final - Monday 23rd February

Its been a marvellous series, with some terrific teams, and tonight it all finally came to a climax with the grand Final. And what a final it was ! Could Manchester University's all round excellence overcome the brilliant Gail Trimble and her Corpus Christi team ?

Well, for a long time it looked as if, yes, they could. The Manchester team's swiftness on the buzzer saw them race off to an early lead, converting bonuses into points as they went. It was a brilliant team effort, with the starters being shared around all the team, reminiscent of their victory over Lincoln, Oxford in the semi final, as they were comprehensively winning the buzzer race. Gail Trimble seemed to be suffering from an off night, and we were even treated to the incredibly rare sight of her buzzing in early with an incorrect answer to a starter.

Still, what we hadn't seen so far this series was how well the rest of the Corpus Christi team could perform when Gail Trimble was having an off night. The first fifteen minutes of the show answered the question. Miss Schwartzman particularly impressed with some particularly swift and timely starters at a time in the competition when Manchester were in danger of disappearing beyond the event horizon, but in all honesty it was by a team effort that Corpus Christi managed to haul themselves back into contention. They had one attempt to take the lead about ten minutes from the end, but failed to convert any of the bonuses.

Manchester didn't panic though, and when Paxman announced there were four minutes to go, there was still daylight between the teams. Then Gail Trimble found her form. Bang - bang - bang - the starters fell to her imperious buzzing, and suddenly it was Manchester who were watching Corpus Christi leaving them trailing. By the end, Corpus Christi won by a comfortable margin, 275 to 190, but all of this lead was achieved in an incredible sprint finish over the last few minutes. Yes, in the last few minutes Manchester, like all of Corpus Christi's opponents this year, were 'Trimbled', but have no doubt, it needed the rest of the team to put her in a position where this tremendous finishing burst could prove decisive.

Poet Wendy Cope, who presented the trophy to the magnificent Corpus Christi team, did say that up to the last few minutes she thought that Manchester had done it. So, I must admit, did I . Congratulations to Jeremy Paxman. People can easily underestimate the contribution that a question master makes to a quiz. Tonight he obviously enjoyed the Final as much as we viewers - one look at his face confirmed this.

So, commiserations to Manchester. They were a fabulous team, who gave Corpus Christi the fright of their lives, and I would say came within a couple of starters of achieving an unassailable lead going into the last few minutes of the contest. Huge congratulations to the Corpus Christi team. This series has been notable for the high quality of a large number of the teams, so to run out worthy winners, as they are, is an achievement indeed. Well done, and thanks to all the teams for all the pleasure you have given us this series.

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