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Brits give defending champions a scare in Eindhoven

20th January 2012

The British Gas GBR Women’s Water Polo team gave defending champions Russia a thorough scare in their second match of the European Championships in Eindhoven.

Competing in the European showpiece for the first time since 1997, the Brits were never out of touch against last year’s World Championship bronze medallists and took plenty of credit from a 15-10 defeat.

Having failed to reach top gear in their opening match against Hungary on Wednesday, the British women put in a much improved performance against a Russian side who had defeated hosts and Olympic champions the Netherlands in their first game.

Today we have shown that we can play water polo.

Goalkeeper Rosie Morris excelled between the sticks with a number of world class saves, but head coach Szilveszter Fekete admitted he was encouraged with the overall team performance as the Brits won their first quarter for the tournament, taking the third period 3-1.

“Today we have shown that we can play water polo,” said Fekete.

“My team performed well although they did not have much international practise during the preparation.

“That may have been the reason why my players were too nervous in the opening match.”

Captain Fran Leighton added: “I’m pleased with the team’s performance. We played very well today and it gives us some confidence for the upcoming six months until the Olympics.

“Our goalkeeper was very good, and we were a bit unlucky with shots on post and bar.”

We played very well today and it gives us some confidence for the upcoming six months until the Olympics.

For the second match running, the British started on a high with Angie Winstanley-Smith scoring from close range for a 1-0 lead before Leighton showed good strength in the pit to edge the Brits 2-1 ahead minutes later.

But it was the Russians who ended the first period in the ascendancy, scoring a couple of outside shots as they pulled away to a 6-2 lead at the first break.

Russia continued to apply the pressure in the second period but momentum gradually swung back to the Brits with Leighton and Vicki Hawkins scoring and a penalty bouncing agonisingly back off the post as the first half ended 9-4.

There was further frustration in the early stages of the third quarter as Great Britain saw shots crash off the post then the bar on consecutive man-ups.

But after Russia added their 10th goal, the Brits began to break through their opponents’ dogged defence.

Quick-thinking from Frankie Snell saw her burst into the pit and convert before a Fran Clayton bounce shot and bullet from Ciara Gibson-Byrne put the Brits back in the match, trailing 10-7 with one quarter remaining.

Gibson-Byrne, Snell and Chloe Wilcox scored three more for the Brits but with their opponents pushing to claw back the deficit, Russia sat back and caught them on the counter, adding another five efforts to secure the win.

British Gas GBR Women's Water Polo Team 10 - 15 Russia (2-6, 2-3, 3-1, 3-5)

GB goalscorers: Frankie Snell (2), Ciara Gibson-Byrne (2), Fran Leighton (2), Angie Winstanley-Smith, Chloe Wilcox, Fran Clayton, Vicki Hawkins.

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