The viscous wall of steam burst out from the interior of the shower, as Gabriel Barrie stepped onto his bath mat, displaying his hulking athletic frame in all its splendour.
He reached out for his "GB" monogrammed quilted towel and pressed the luxurious Egyptian cotton against his tender and steaming skin.
As co-captain of Oxford Men's Lacrosse club, Gabriel had arranged a strict meet time of quarter past the sixteenth hour. The current time was ten past the sixteenth hour and Gabriel felt completely in control of the situation as he slipped into his fine silk undergarments.
Gabriel proceeded to dress himself and made for the kitchen, thinking thoroughly about the fuel required to get him through the back-to-back matches with Cardiff and Bath Universities. He sat down at his granite breakfast bar with a particularly large bowl of summer berry Granola and a small tipple of freshly squeezed clementine juice.
Meanwhile at Iffley Road Sports Complex, Gabriel's Co-captain Tim Sweere was furiously checking his watch every 101st second and had calculated that it was exactly 207 more seconds until the rest of his squad were late.
A few of the particularly keen players had already arrived, in an effort to impress and charm the co-captains in the hope that the few minutes of small talk they made would count when it came to varsity selection.
Tim ignored the inane and dull witterings of his players and watched as the hand of his watch passed the quarter past mark. At times like this, Tim was helpless and isolated, he counted his lucky stars and reached for his brimming shaker of Huel, after a lengthy glug he smacked his lips and saw the minibus pull into Iffley Road.
Almost instantaneously he decreed "krijgen in de verdomde minibus u nat klootzakken!". The players jumped into action and scrambled for the minibus. Within minutes it was laden with bags of all shapes and sizes, with lacrosse sticks protruding aggressively from a host of different angles.
Gabriel turned to the 'Letters To The Editor' section of The Telegraph, his favourite section by a country mile and the one which he used to inform and guide most of his principles and thoughts in life. After leafing through several more pages Gabriel sighed at the emptiness of the day's Telegraph, folded it up and placed it to one side, in readiness for his housemate Issy Warner to read upon her return from a long day of reading and socialising in the Turl Street Kitchen.
Gabriel headed for his room, checking his phone on the way, he had pre-empted a string of latenesses with the rest of his team, so he made the adroit decision to type out a quick but terrifying message to the rest of the squad. "Guys hurry up".
Like a crack of thunder, this message ripped through the atmosphere of the 'Lax Daddies' group whatsapp. Suddenly everybody understood. People were late. On Game Day this was certainly not to be tolerated. Those who were late and had seen the message broke out into cold sweats all across Central Oxford. The feeling of urgency was suddenly amplified.
However to one man, this message made no sense. Tim Sweere stood bemused in the car park of Iffley Road. He double checked the minibus to see if he had overlooked Gabriel on his first scan. He hadn't.
Panic washed over him. Maybe he was with the wrong sports team. Maybe he was with the wrong minibus. He did a double take. Before him sat eight of OULC's men, looking confused and drooling on themselves, as usual. He knew he was in the right place.
Gabriel locked his front door and boarded his vintage Claud Butler bicycle and floated down the hill towards Iffley Road. He locked his bicycle to the wooden fence and parambulated towards the bus in a leisurely fashion.
As soon as he stepped aboard the bus he grinned with glee to see that everyone was accounted for. "We missing anyone?" He enquired. Robert Conway quietly shook his head and looked at his toes.
Gabriel nestled into his seat next to his co-captain Tim, remarking that "we should be alright for a 19:45 face". Tim grumbled something incomprehensible in Dutch and took a long, slow, draw of Huel to settle his nerves.
Steve Hayes, the Blues' stoic goalkeeper fired up the engine of the minibus and careered out of the Iffley Road car park to try and recoup some precious time.
The journey was rather uneventful apart from a few wrong turns made by Steve when he went into autopilot and started following signs for Canterbury, as opposed to Cardiff.
After jeers and ridicule from the rear of the minibus, Steve returned to the necessary trajectory and the 14 strong squad hurtled towards Cardiff with a ferocious desire for a win.
Upon arrival at the AstroTurf, OULC's men were greeted with the Cardiff team in their usual attire. Lacking match kit and opting for just pinnies in the cold February weather, the Cardiff team certainly made for a worrying sight. Many jokes were made about the aesthetic of the Blues' opponents, however it's fair to say that most of these were made to cover the underlying worry of the Blues team.
At the face-off time of 19:45, the Blues began their warmup. After many hurrying attempts from the referee's the co-captains managed to string out the warmup to a moderate length and allowed the Blues to settle their nerves, albeit without the aid of the fast break drill.
Skipping the full team lineup, the whistle blew for the first face-off, with Cardiff taking the first possession of the game and a tense trucking of the ball between halves by both team's midfield packs. Gabriel Barrie (7) rattled the onion bag first for the Blues by sending a well placed shot into the bottom left corner of the goal after weaving his way towards the crease and drawing at least one slide.
Following this there was a string of goals each of equal merit, however the specifics of which I shan't go into publicly for fear that Gabriel's unfortunate Tab brother Will Barrie (A*A*A*A*) should be sat down with his chief of staff Peter Baddoo (AAB) and analysing these plays.
One goal that the editor will expand upon however, is that of midfield player Matthew Jamshed (89). With Gabriel Barrie (7) making a dodge down the right alley and successfully drawing a slide he sees an open channel to pass to Jamshed. He looks away, hoping for a sideways offload, to George, to Toby, to Max, to anyone. Gabriel is isolated with poles on each side of his vision. He turns again to Jamshed, sighs deeply, and lazily pops a pass through the channel, hoping for its interception by on of the Cardiff poles. His worst fears are realised, the Cardiff poles have missed the easy knock down and the ball is now loosely rooted and rattling around in the moist mesh of Jamshed's stick. Fortunately the midfielder has been spotted practising his shooting away from the eyes of the prying captains. After poring over hours of Rabil shooting clinics on YouTube the plucky midfielder knows exactly what to do. He shuts his eyes. He grips his stick as firmly as possible and he yanks the bugger firmly and sharply in the direction of the net. Gabriel is already at the halfway line, ready to play defence just as he realises that Cardiff's keeper was awoken by the rustling of the ball in the back of the onion bag. A hip bump with George Dury (25). Fist bumps from Robert Conway (18), Max Howells (77), Shamus Birch (37) and Tim Sweere (22). A shake of the head from Gabriel Barrie (7) and number 89 triumphantly returned to the sideline and began reheating the bench to its appropriate temperature.
Late into the fourth quarter, with Oxford leading 11-1, Dominic Hewitt (32) takes a dangerous neck level cross check in the neck, in the gap between his head and his shoulder, right in the neck. The enraged Dom falls to the ground in true footballer fashion and rolls around dutifully to secure OULC's send-off and man up play.
With 60 seconds left on the clock, Dom re-enters the field, as the Cardiff team attempt a transition down the line. Sadly, Gabe and Tim forgot to notify the unfortunate Cardiff midfielder that the line the they intended to break down, was in fact Dom's line and Dom's line only. The Cardiff midfielder quickly found himself hurtling through the air after a short and sharp change in momentum, thanks to the sideways force applied by Dom. It was clear to all spectators that the Cardiff midfielder had clearly been watching the Oxford Men closely as he found himself firmly rooted in the bin, knowing not how he got there.
Men's Blues - Tuesday 7th February 2017 - BUCS South Prem - Cardiff Away