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Young teams step up at NAG Water Polo champs

28 April 2014

In a series of hotly contested matches, the 2014 British Gas ASA National Age Group Water Polo Championships made way for four new victors in an exciting turn of events after last year’s clean sweep of gold medals from City of Manchester.

Otter lined up for the first of the final showdowns against Liverpool in the Youth Girls category, following a dominant defeat of reigning champions City of Manchester in the semi-final stages.

Clearly taking confidence from their earlier victory, Otter looked strong from the off taking a 4-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Liverpool were seemingly undeterred by this front end pace and fought back hard against the London-based team to bring the score level at 5-5.

But Otter were not to be beaten, showing their strength and fitness in the final quarter to win the match by three goals with a 10-7 triumph. The Most Valuable Player award, chosen by 2012 Olympian Fiona McCann, was awarded to Otter's Izzy Dean who scored six goals in the final and two in the semi final.

In the Youth Boys Final, Croydon and Invicta faced off, with Croydon’s Matt Helps opening the scoring in the first few minutes. Helps then capitalised on this early success, scoring a further four goals in the opening half and after a tantalising two quarters of play, the score stood at 5-4 to Croydon.

At the close of the third quarter and on into the fourth, Croydon began to put distance between the teams and with 5:30 to go, were 11-4 up. Invicta put on an impressive comeback in the final quarter to bring the closing score to 11-8.

Invicta captain Ben Tinkler-Davies was awarded the Most Valuable Player crown by GBR Men’s team players Joe O’Regan and Jonny Kirk.

In a repeat of the last year’s Junior Girls final line-up, City of Manchester and Liverpool went head to head in a thrilling ‘one year on’ rematch. The 2013 champions City of Manchester made a confident start, landing a goal within the first 60 seconds of play and pulled away in the first quarter to put a 4-1 margin over their northern rivals.

This did not deter Liverpool who were eager to snatch the elusive title, as Lauren Tasker stamped their presence in the second minute of the third quarter scoring the equaliser to put them level at 6-6.

The game remained tight with Liverpool taking the lead for the first time with three minutes to go. Lots of near misses were the tale of the final period, before Tasker scored the crucial goal for a 10-9 victory over the reigning champions.

Arguably the closest match of the competition came in the form of Solihull versus City of Manchester in the Junior Boys final. With a point to prove in an attempt to secure their only win of the 2014 competition, City of Manchester started hard with strong offensive play, perhaps to their detriment, as Solihull’s Jordan Elliot put early goals on the board.

In a cat-and-mouse first half, scores were close at 8-7 in Manchester’s favour after a goal from Aaron Winstanley with one second to go. The tug of war continued into the third quarter as Solihull gained the lead again, finishing 12-11 before the deciding period of play.

The competitive tension became visible in the final quarter as another impressive goal from Winstanley brought the scores level, but Solihull could not be stopped as they went on to take the title in a 14-13 nailbiter. Lewis Daly of City of Manchester was awarded Most Valuable Player.

In the Youth Girls bronze medal match, Crawley faced last year’s champions City of Manchester. Crawley looked set to take the win with two minutes to go to the final whistle, when Manchester put in a late equaliser to take the score to deadlock.

After an emotional penalty shoot out loss to Liverpool in the semi-final, Crawley’s Gemma Coulson delivered an impressive power shot to steal the win in her first ever penalty shoot out.

Watford put up a strong fight against City of Manchester to secure the bronze medal in the Youth Boys category. Manchester took the lead and finished the first quarter 2-0 up, but Watford fought back and by the third minute of the third quarter scores were tied at 3-3.

Manchester went 5-3 up in the third, but Watford showed grit and determination to land a final score of 6-5 in a dramatic comeback finale.

In the Junior Girls bronze medal match, 2013 bronze medallists Otters reclaimed their title, putting in a convincing win over Crawley with a final score of 15-10.

Otter scored first and with five minutes to go there was only a goal in it. Otter pulled ahead at the end of the last quarter, just as they did against Liverpool in the Youth Girls final, proving that their fitness and match sharpness across the ranks is a force to be reckoned with.

In the Junior Boys bronze medal match it was Croydon against Cheltenham. Cheltenham took an early lead to conclude the first quarter at 6-4, only to be chased down by Croydon who equalised 10-10 in the fourth minute of the third quarter, with a goal from Ashley Castle.

Cheltenham however, were unfazed and unrelenting, driving on to secure the win, with Nick Armitage-Bond scoring the winning goal just six seconds before the final whistle.

  • Click here for a full list of results from the British Gas ASA National Water Polo Championships.
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