Blues 2-1 Birmingham University (25-18, 19-25, 15-12)
A difficult opener for Cambridge saw them face Birmingham, who had both their Cypriot/Greek stars available and were therefore at full strength. Blues coach Dr Richard White started his strongest unit with Roger Konrad setting, Dan Roy opposite, Dan Escott and Jean Jacquet in the middle, Andy Lynn and Pierre Briguet-Lamarre outside and Denis Zuev in the libero jersey. The group B matches were played in the small hall at Leeds University, thus preventing both sides from utilising jump services, and the early exchanges were close as each team sided-out convincingly. With Lynn dominant through the outside and Escott blocking strongly, the Blues surged ahead in the middle of the game and took the set 25-18.
With Antoniadis and Nikiforou in fine form, Birmingham had overcome a strong Cambridge start to force a time-out at 10-8 when disaster struck the Blues. Andy Lynn turned an ankle landing after a block, and with Ken Kato already having been brought on at the other outside position, Quentin Ramasse was thrust into the fray. A buoyant Birmingham side stepped up the pace as the new outside pairing struggled, and levelled the match 25-19.
Birmingham's travelling support provided a thunderous accompaniment to the tiebreak, which was a thrilling and fitting conclusion to a gripping match. Cambridge struck first to lead 6-4, but coach White was forced to call time-out at 6-7. Behind strong attacking from Kato and Roy and stellar blocking from Escott, the Blues then stretched out to 11-7, but another time-out followed as the Midlanders clawed back to 11-10. A crucial kill from Roy prevented them from levelling the score, however, and the whole Cambridge squad poured onto court as the set was secured 15-12.
Report by Richard White
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