GB Juniors Turkish Delight blog
10th May 2013
Keep track of the British Gas GBR Junior Men’s Water Polo team in their ‘Turkish Delight’ blog from the European Championship qualifiers in Istanbul. Faced with Russia, Turkey, Switzerland and Bulgaria in their group, the Brits needed a top-two finish to qualify for September’s Championship Finals in Malta.
Day One - 9th May
After some excellent results in Poland the boys went back to school for a week before re-assembling for the main event. With Adam Toone’s injury given the thumbs up, the team was at full strength for the campaign.
The draw gave the team a mouth-watering encounter against hot favourites Russia, a daunting second day of two games in eight hours against fancied Bulgaria and inexperienced Switzerland, and a final game plus possible qualification decider against hosts Turkey.
Csaba (Rull, head coach) was keen for the boys to prove to the referees that we were serious contenders in the tournament, so a good performance was vital. The plan was to defend the first play and hit the Russians on the counter, which surprised some of the players.
The plan was to defend the first play and hit the Russians on the counter, which surprised some of the players.
However, despite a sending out with the very first whistle of the game the tactic worked. There was only one goal in the quarter to Russia and GB were unlucky not to get a decision from the refs.
The game opened up in the second period with the team earning some penalties and extra mans and half time came with the score 5-4 in Russia’s favour. The boys indulged in jelly babies while listening to Csaba’s machine gun instructions at the break.
The third quarter, the key to any game, was Russia’s as they crept ahead and we began to chase the game too hard. The last quarter began 9-4 to the opposition and they continued to dominate the exchanges.
However, GB were not going to lie down and the last five minutes were all ours and we managed to square the quarter 2-2.
11-6 to Russia was not a demoralising defeat and there were so many positives to take from the game. All aspects of our tactics were on song, with solid defensive positioning and good variations of man up.
Dylan Greene was probably man of the match in goal with Jordan Elliot (2), Tom Whiting, Sam Routledge, Adam Toone and James Salt the goal scorers. Special thanks to a large and partisan bunch of parents whose support has been fantastic throughout.
Day Two - 10th May (Part One)
The warm-up was the first real sight of the opposition who were big and looked to have good hands and powerful shooting…just like us! But no lefties.
Inspired by yesterday’s performance, the boys started the game against Bulgaria giving up the swim off to set the tone of the match: controlled defence with lots of dropping and double marking. Keys to this system were the quiet efficiency of Tom Grieve and Joel Leighton at centre back and brick wall keeping by Dylan Greene and “Stefan” Williams.
Quarter time GB were 1-0 to the good, though we squandered many chances, especially extra man. Again we totally dominated play in the second period which resulted in two goals for and one against.
One Bulgar, sadly resorting to the ugly side of physical sports, left a dental imprint on Sam Routledge's back!
After Jill’s candy break at half-time GB totally dominated a shattered Bulgarian team who, physically, could not keep pace with us (big thanks and respect Evan!). As they rapidly tired we turned the screw winning the quarter 4-1, virtually sealing the match with a 7-2 lead going into the last.
Starved of possession, one Bulgar, sadly resorting to the ugly side of physical sports, left a deep dental imprint on captain Sam Routledge’s back. Nothing, however, was going to faze the team and an even quarter left GB with an emphatic and well-deserved 8-3 victory.
Goal scorers were Will Rayson (2), Jordan Elliot (2), Andy Robinson, Lewis Daly, Lewis Jones and James Salt.
Once again our supporters were outstanding and the passion with which the team sing the National Anthem could bring a tear to many a patriot’s eye.
Roll on the Swiss in game three!!
Day Two - 10th May (Part Two)
Csaba’s global lifestyle and multi-lingual knowledge allowed him to overhear the Swiss team manager tell his charges that they could and should beat GB. That was yesterday!
With only two goals in eight periods for Switzerland, and over 50 against, GB were aiming to keep a clean sheet for their second game of the day. It was 8-0 at half time and all was going to plan although our tiredness was manifesting itself in poor shot selection and poor man up/man down play.
Too many chances had been missed but Stephen Williams had got his chance to start and dealt with everything that was thrown at him.
Stephen Williams got his chance to start and dealt with everything that was thrown at him.
The jelly babies had run out and the selection reverted to that tried and tested half-time snack Haribos (Spoof Science monthly May 2013) …if only the refs had had some. The nature of the game changed with the decisions clearly going the way of the opposition in the second half.
Coupled with tiredness the boys became more and more frustrated, and the whole rhythm of our play was lost.
Having said that, the second half was a 3-3 draw meaning the final score was 11-3 though we all left the pool thinking we should have done a lot better. With two wins we did the job we needed to and set up the chance to qualify for the finals in the showdown game with hosts Turkey tomorrow.
The weather can be so lovely in Malta in September… hopefully we can get there! Come on GB!
Scorers were Will Rayson (4), Sam Routledge (3), Andy Robinson, Lewis Jones, Adam Toone, James Salt.
Day Three - 11th May
It started like any other competition day: half sleepy boys assembling for breakfast discussing the finer points of life; referees, girls and Carmarthen Water Polo Club.
We travelled to the pool and trained, stretched and returned for lunch.
Post-lunch it was Coach Csaba’s team talk. This was a different day then. It was an all or nothing day; the mantra was everything to win and nothing to lose…except the swim off! We were ready and we had a chance.
After a mid-afternoon rest we assembled for the bus: this was very different. The lively bus had gone quiet; Andy’s Jam Jar had gone missing and the falsetto section on the back seat mute. You could’ve heard a pin drop in the 45 minute journey. It felt irreverent to speak.
You could have heard a pin drop in the 45 minute journey to the pool.
The ritual of the pre-match quarters (first watch, second team talk, third land warm up and fourth water warm up); the presentation; the national anthem (boy those lads can sing!); Csaba’s final words, from his heart to theirs, seemed to take place without breathing.
The long awaited whistle, a sharp expellation of air, and the game began: life had returned to normal! Swim off lost, defence set, reversal: counter, exclusion, man up, goal! GB 1 Turkey 0. But the hosts we’re not just there to be shot at. A double exclusion and they quickly resumed parity.
It was a fantastic game to watch. 3-5 down at quarter time we were still in touch. The speed was incredible and there had been 16 actions in the opening period. The second quarter belonged to the hosts as GB rushed a little catch up and they caught us with lightening counters, fluid play in front of goal and rocket 5m shots.
At half time it was 3-10 to the hosts and we had played well; very well in many aspects of the game. Haribos consumed, we were not about to give in. We matched Turkey 6-5 in the second half with the feeling that we did not always get the rub of the green. Sam Routledge and Lewis Jones both scored hat-tricks with Andy Robinson and Lewis Daly netting one each.
16-8 against a very good Turkish side was no mean feat but the boys were naturally devastated. The special part of the team, the superb supporting parents, then lifted the boys’ spirits coming back to the hotel for photos and one final rendition of the national anthem.
Hopefully, these boys will be given the opportunity to stick together and go on to have long and successful international water polo careers. This experience should be just the beginning. Come on GB!
The GB U17: Dylan Greene, Tom Grieve, Tom Whiting, Jordan Elliot Sam Routledge (c), Andy Robinson, Lewis Daly, Lewis Jones, Adam Toone, James Salt, William Rayson, Joel Leighton, Stephen Williams.
Head Coach: Csaba Rull
Assistant Coach: Tim Whitwham
Team Manager: Jill Trafford
That’s all folks! Thanks for your support back home!