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ESSA make it three wins from three to set up crunch clash with Malta

The English Schools’ Swimming Association (ESSA) Water Polo team enjoyed a successful Sunday in Malta with two more sensational victories in the Exiles’ International Invitational Tournament.

Triumphs over South Africa 2nds (19-7) and Dutch national champions Widex GZC Donk (9-5) made it three wins from three after Saturday’s opening-game 9-8 win against South Africa 1sts.

With Malta also having a 100% record, it sets the tournament finale up nicely, as the hosts face the ESSA team for a winner-takes-all clash on Tuesday afternoon at the National Aquatics Stadium in Sliema.

First up on Sunday was South Africa 2nds and the ESSA team ruthlessly tore into their opponents from the first whistle.

“There was a lot of good movement throughout and we managed to score lots of great goals” – ESSA and Watford goalkeeper Peter Pickford.

Bolton School’s Aaron Winstanley opened the scoring after just 24 seconds and slammed home another 18 seconds later to make it 2-0 with less than a minute played.

The early onslaught set the tone for the rest of the game as ESSA continuously drove forward and Winstanley added three more and captain Lewis Daly and Cleeve School’s Rudi Polster both scored hat-tricks.

Longslade Community College’s Jordan Elliot also proved a constant threat as he found the net on four occasions, while Great Baddow High’s Dan Paddon (2), All Saints Academy’s Will Rayson (1) and Manchester Grammar’s Rob Gourley (1) were ESSA’s other scorers.

In goal, Watford’s Peter Pickford excelled on his international debut as he produced some tremendous saves and stopped a penalty.

“It was a great game to play in and it was a good feeling to make my international debut,” said Pickford after the match.

“The team played really well and personally it was nice to be able to save a penalty.

“It was another great result and it was all down to the team’s efforts. There was a lot of good movement throughout and we managed to score lots of great goals.

“We’re constantly building as a team and we’ll look to improve on this result in the remaining matches.”

In ESSA’s second game of the day, the team produced another excellent display to triumph 9-5 over Dutch national champions Widex GZC Donk.

Winstanley carried on his fine form in front of goal with a hat-trick, with Rayson (2), Elliot (2), Worthing College’s Joe Hazeldine (1) and Bolton School’s Tom Prayle (1) also hitting the target.

After three games each, ESSA and Malta sit joint top of the table having both taken maximum points.

The stage is now set for an epic deciding match between the two nations and a bumper crowd is expected at the National Aquatics Stadium on Tuesday, 4.15pm start UK time, to see who is crowned tournament champions.

The 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