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ESSA defeat hosts Malta to be crowned tournament champions

There were jubilant scenes in Sliema on Tuesday afternoon as the English Schools’ Swimming Association (ESSA) Water Polo team were crowned tournament champions after a commanding 19-8 (3-2, 6-1, 3-2, 7-3) victory over hosts Malta.

With both teams joint top and level on maximum points beforehand, the five-day, five-team international competition sensationally came down to a winner-takes-all clash between the two nations.

A passionate and partisan crowd descended on the National Aquatics Stadium for the grand finale, but the ESSA team weren’t fazed as they started strongly and took a 3-2 first quarter lead with goals from captain Lewis Daly, Rudi Polster and Dan Paddon.

In the second, ESSA began to dominate and won the quarter 6-1 as Daly struck twice to complete his hat-trick and Joe Hazeldine, Rob Gourley, Jordan Elliot and Polster also found the net to extend the lead to 9-3.

With victory in their sights, the ESSA team remained fully focussed in the third and continued to defend strongly while working hard to hurt Malta in attack.

Aaron Winstanley then scored his first of the afternoon, before Will Rayson converted twice to give them an all-important seven-goal advantage (12-5) going into the final quarter.

ESSA made no mistake in the closing exchanges as they again controlled the play and worked tirelessly to make the triumph even more emphatic.

Winstanley and Paddon added another each, while Elliot (2), Rayson (1), Alfie Brown (1) and Tom Prayle (1) also hit the target to secure a stunning 19-8 victory and top spot on the medal podium.

ESSA overall tournament goalscorers:

Aaron Winstanley (12), Jordan Elliot (10), Lewis Daly (8), Will Rayson (7), Rudi Polster (5), Joe Hazeldine (4), Dan Paddon (4), Tom Prayle (2), Rob Gourley (2), Alfie Brown (1) & Joel Leighton (1)

ESSA squad in full:

  • Dylan Green – Oldham College, Oldham, Gtr Manchester
  • Peter Pickford – Watford Grammar School for Boys, Herts
  • Jordan Elliot – Longslade Community College, Leics
  • Will Rayson – All Saints Academy, Cheltenham, Glous
  • Dan Paddon – Great Baddow High School, Essex
  • Joel Leighton – High Storrs School, Sheffield, Yorks
  • Aaron Winstanley – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
  • Lewis Daly – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
  • Rudi Polster – Cleeve School, Glous
  • Joe Hazeldine – Worthing College, W.Sussex
  • Tom Prayle – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
  • Rob Gourley – Manchester Grammar School, Gtr Manchester
  • Remmy Gorton – Xaverian VIth Form College, Gtr Manchester
  • Sam Richards – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
  • Sam Wordley – Exeter College, Devon
  • Alfie Brown – Glyn School, Epsom, Surrey