Rowing: Cambridge prepare for battle with plod through the trenches

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The Independent Online

Cambridge's trial for the 150th Boat Race on 28 March was a drab trudge through the trenches rather than a shoot-out in no man's land between Guns and Roses. On a flat tideway under a grey sky, Roses pulled ahead to an uneventful four-length win in 18min 39sec, having silenced Guns before the latter could ignite their magazine. The gunners were 11 seconds slower. The impression was a pedestrian, well-behaved plod.

Umpire James Behrens had little to do. Guns was stroked by the German international Seb Mayer, who had difficulty completing the 2002 Boat Race at full pressure, with the blues Hugh Mallinson and Kris Coventry behind him. The winners were blue-less, although president Wayne Pommen in the seven seat came close until collision with the harbour-master's launch two days before this year's race cost him his seat.

Pommen and stroke Nate Kirk, from this year's reserve crew, gelled well as the stern pair and found powerful support from John Davies, a young college oarsman, in the key six seat.

Two good men were on the bank owing to illness - Ben Smith, Pommen's 2003 replacement, and Goldie oarsman Steffen Buschbache. Cambridge have also lost their youngest man in 2003, Tom James, to the British Olympic squad.

This trial was illuminating for coaches and crews. Chief coach Robin Williams said: "Half the squad are returnees and half are recruited from our development programme with the colleges. The result is as I expected. Usually, when you have two crews equal on paper, one starts to find chemistry during the week before the trials. There was plenty for us to see, and today was pretty heartening."

Pommen has forgone a chance to represent Canada in next year's Olympics to lead Cambridge on 28 March.

Cambridge trial crews Guns: Bow D Barnes (Emmanuel), C Scott (Trinity Hall), E Sherwood (Jesus), C Grundberg (Magdalene), H Mallinson* (St Catharine's), K Coventry* (Queens'), K Coveny (Hughes Hall), stroke S Mayer* (Caius), cox K Richardson (Peterhouse). Roses: Bow J Local (Caius), R Popham (Clare), C Le Neve Foster (St Catharine's), O de Groot (Caius), A Shannon (St Edmund's), J Davies (Trinity), W Pommen (Pembroke), stroke N Kirk (St Edmund's), cox S Chen Catharine's). * denotes Blue

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