University Challenge: Balliol dash hopes of 'Monkmania' finale win

Nicola Slawson
The teams from Wolfson and Balliol at the beginning of the contest. Photograph: BBC Two/PA

The hearts of “Monkmaniacs” broke during the final of the 46th series of University Challenge as Oxford University’s Balliol College beat Wolfson College, Cambridge, by 190 points to 140

Wolfson’s captain, Eric Monkman, caused a sensation earlier in the competition when his quick-fire answers secured 120 out of his team’s winning 170-point score in one round.

In a tense contest, Wolfson took an early lead before Balliol caught up at the halfway point on 80 points each. Several missteps by Monkman in the later stages lost Wolfson points, and Balliol took the lead with five minutes to go.

All eyes were on the 29-year-old Canadian, who had become the latest University Challenge contestant to go viral, capturing viewers’ hearts and becoming a social media sensation due to his gravity defying eyebrows, starched collars and emphatic answering style.

Using the hashtag #Monkmania, fans have hailed him as everything from a superhero to a god, with one saying: “I love him more than my children.”

At one point, Monkman fumbled a question about Latin and lost five points for the team, to which the host, Jeremy Paxman, responded scathingly: “I’m afraid that is a completely useless answer.”

In the semi-final against Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Monkman had delighted fans by scoring 120 of his team’s 170 points, answering 18 of the 45 correctly answered questions, including almost half the 10-point starter questions.

Since graduating, he has been job hunting in Canada and admits to being bemused by the attention.

Paxman congratulated the winners and told Wolfson there was “no shame in being runners-up” and that they had been “one of the most entertaining teams in this year’s contest”.

For only the second time in the programme’s 55-year history, the trophy was presented outside the studio, this time at Cambridge University, by Stephen Hawking.

The renowned physicist and cosmologist told them: “I have said in the past that it is not clear whether intelligence has any long-term survival value – bacteria multiply and flourish without it. But it is one of the most admirable qualities, especially when displayed by such young minds.

“Many congratulations to both teams but especially to Balliol College, Oxford, on becoming series champions on University Challenge, a programme I have long enjoyed.”