Evening all. We're back! After what seems like an interminable break, although TBH, so much has happened in the three months since we were last here, it, for once, does really feel like an eternity. But still, we're back! And, for the first time, I am completely unprepared for the new series! Usually, I've already got my stat tables and stuff sorted by now, but not this time! TBH, I've kinda enjoyed my rest from this blog too much, to the extent that I didn't get around to reviewing the Series 8 final of Fifteen-to-One 2.0; congrats to Max Espensen who won that, BTW. Anyway, off we set with Chapter 1 of Volume 47 of University Challenge!
Edinburgh University were with us last series, making an under-the-radar run to the semis before losing to eventual champs Balliol. Scotland's fourth university, founded in 1583, its alumni include footballer and part time writer Arthur Conan Doyle, politicians Gordon Brown and Ruth Davidson, my father and numerous old school friends. This year's team were:
John Heaton-Armstrong, from Edinburgh, studying Russian and History
Stanley Wang, from Edinburgh, studying Speech and Language Processing
Captain: Innis Carson, from Glasgow, studying Chemistry
Philippa Stone, from Oxford, studying Biology
Ulster University, making its Paxo-era UC debut tonight, was founded in 1984, and is the largest university on the island of Ireland. Alumni include comedian Omid Djalili and children's TV legend Gerry Anderson. It's first UC team of the Paxo era, and also the oldest of this year's tournament, were:
Kyle McDaid, from Buncrana in County Donegal, studying English Literature
Kate Ritchie, from Waringstown in County Armagh, studying Fine Art
Captain: Ian Jack, from Peterhead, studying Pharmacy
Matthew Milliken, from Comber in County Down, studying Education
Off we set again then, and local man (for me) Mr Jack had the honour of taking the first starter of the series, and his side taking two bonuses on travel guides. A second starter went to the Ulster captain, and one bonus followed this time. Mr Wang then took Edinburgh's first starter of the night, and his side broke their duck with two bonuses on Britain and Australia. Edinburgh's second bonus set, however, got them nothing further. The first picture round, on routes of expeditions, went to Ulster, who took two picture bonuses, which gave them a lead of 55-30.
Mr Wang then incurred the first penalty of the series; Ulster took the points and one of the resultant bonuses. Edinburgh recovered the points soon after, and a bonus set on Mexico gave them a full house. (I got chihuahua as the country's largest state) Another starter and a set of bonuses on football and poetry gave them the chance to take the lead, but they could only pull within five.
The music round, on TV theme tunes composed by Howard Goodall, saw Ulster take a full house on the bonuses, and me guess that Red Dwarf would be the last one before it was played! They now led 95-65, only for a slip-up to cost them five, and allow Edinburgh to pull within five again. A speculative buzz on 'lemonade' gave the Scots side the lead for the first time, and a full bonus set gave them some breathing space to boot. Mr Jack put a stop to that though, and a full bonus set of their own gave them the lead again. Mr Heaton-Armstrong came right back for Edinburgh, but they could only take one bonus this time.
The second picture round, on actors who played the same role on stage and screen, went to Ulster, who could also only take one, but nonetheless, it gave them the lead again, 130-125. Edinburgh took it back with Mr Heaton-Armstrong again doing the honours, but just the one bonus followed again. What looked like an educated guess put Ulster level again, and a crucial full bonus set set up a grandstand finish to start the series.
Neither side identified the correct monarch for the next starter; the next saw Mr Carson, a noted alumnus of Countdown and Only Connect, take his first starter of the night. Edinburgh too took a full set of bonuses, which might just have been enough to see them home. Indeed, Mr Milliken took the final starter, but there was no time for any bonuses. Edinburgh won the match, 165-160!
A great start to the series between two excellent teams both of whom deserve to return. Unlucky Ulster, who led much of the way through and just fell short at the end, but 160 will surely be enough to bring you back in the play-offs; best of luck there then! Well done Edinburgh though, and very best of luck in the second round!
The stats: Mr Jack was, just, the best buzzer of the night, with six starters to the five of Mr Heaton-Armstrong. On the bonuses, Edinburgh converted 16 out of 27, while Ulster managed 15 out of 24, with both sides incurring one penalty. So, that extra bonus, plus there being no time for the final set, won the match for Edinburgh. But well played both sides!
Next week's match: Trinity College Cambridge vs Bristol
Only Connect is, I understand, due to return at the end of the month, still on Friday nights. However, I am also informed that there are plans to reunite it with UC in the New Year.