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Historic victory for British women

22 April 2014

The British Gas GBR Women’s Water Polo team pulled off the best result in their history by stunning world champions Spain in their final 2014 FINA World League match in Manchester.

It was an emotional night for the British women; their international future uncertain after the unexpected withdrawal of UK Sport funding two months ago.

"We’ve been through so much over the last three or four months. It’s been horrific," - Angie Winstanley-SmithBut the Brits – who came into the match on the back of winning gold as team England at the Commonwealth Championships in Aberdeen earlier this month – were relentless as they out-worked their celebrated opponents for a deserved 9-7 (1-0, 3-1, 3-4, 2-2) victory.

Spain had gone unbeaten throughout their World League campaign, including a 13-5 victory over GB in January, and had no intention of taking their foot off the pedal in their final match with 11 of their 13 world champions on show in Manchester.

But the Spanish couldn’t match the intensity or endeavor of their hosts, trailing for the majority of the match, pulling level in the final quarter but then falling short in the final minutes.

And Angie Winstanley-Smith, who played for the Brits at the London 2012 Olympics, admits the performance was a poignant result of the hard work the team have put in over the past decade.

“You can see how we celebrated, that was like a final for us,” said Winstanley Smith, who helped the Brits qualify for their second consecutive European Championships earlier this year.

“We’ve been through so much over the last three or four months. It’s been horrific. We’ve had to look at our lives totally differently and to come away with a result like that shows you the strength we have and also the strength of character we have. We’re not just a water polo team. We’re a family.

“Everyone left everything they have in the pool tonight. Wilco [Chloe Wilcox] was cramping up in that last quarter but she kept going until the end. Water polo is a team game because not one action comes without three or four people.

“The Commonwealth Championships really got us going on a positive wave and we’ve got good momentum now on to Europeans in the summer.

“We’ve got a shared passion to show UK Sport that they’ve made a mistake. We’re a good team and we can show what a team game brings to Great Britain and to young people and how important team games are at the Olympics."

The Brits were on the front foot from the outset with Barcelona-born Ciara Gibson-Byrne bagging her first of four goals and the only score in a tight opening quarter.

The home side established a three goal lead in the second period as Kathryn Fowler scored from the pit on man-up before Manchester local Ella Chadderton added another two goals to put the crowd in raptures.

After a dressing down at half-time, the Spanish fought back in the third quarter but the Brits kept their noses in front throughout as Gibson-Byrne scored twice and Lisa Gibson found the net with 0.1 second left on the clock.

The world champions drew level early in the final quarter with two quick-fire goals to pull the game back to 7-7 but the Brits endured as Winstanley-Smith won two penalties which Gibson-Byrne and Wilcox dispatched to secure a famous victory.

The Brits will travel to their second consecutive European Championships in Budapest in July, having finished seventh in Eindhoven two years ago.

Click here to see the full GBR line-up against Spain.

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