Rowing: Hodge in charge as Cowboys win trial

Oxford's boat race trial was more a procession than a race yesterday when the Cowboys, mostly American postgraduates stroked by Andy Triggs Hodge from Britain's Olympic eight, and steered by this year's cox, Acer Nethercott, trounced the Indians.

Oxford's boat race trial was more a procession than a race yesterday when the Cowboys, mostly American postgraduates stroked by Andy Triggs Hodge from Britain's Olympic eight, and steered by this year's cox, Acer Nethercott, trounced the Indians.

The latter contained the president, Robin Bourne-Taylor, also from the GB eight, and was stroked by Barney Williams, stroke of the Canadian four who lost to Matthew Pinsent's crew so narrowly at the Olympics.

Williams found the poppling Tideway different to the sundrenched waters of Athens, and his crew found neither pace nor rhythm after a messy start during which Williams fluffed a stroke. Hodge established a striding rhythm immediately, and while Nethercott could steer where he liked, the Indians' Nick Brodie went all over the place - mostly the wrong place.

The Cowboys completed the four-and-a-quarter mile course in under 16min 57sec, pushed by a strong tide but impressive for all that. Not as impressive, though, as Cambridge's close trial race on Monday in which the winning crew clocked 16min 41sec on smoother water, the third fastest time from Putney to Mortlake.

Cambridge are ahead in the race to the big day on 27 March. Both have strong and talented squads, but Oxford have more to do to merge the rough with the smooth and select their crew.

Oxford Trial Eights: Indians: J Anderson (Keble, bow), N Thomas-Peter (Balliol), R Esmond-Frej (Oriel), J von Maltzahn (Kellogg), *P Reed (Oriel), *C Smith (St Catheri-ne's), *R Bourne-Taylor (Christ Church), B

Williams (Jesus, stroke), N Brodie (St Catherine's, cox). Cowboys: J Sattlemair (Exeter, bow), A Keats (Brasenose), A Brennan (Pembroke), *D Livingston (Christ Church), C Liwski (St Catherine's), M Blomquist (St Peter's), *H Morris (Magdalen), A Triggs Hodge (St Catherine's, stroke), *A Nethercott (University, cox). * denotes Blue

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