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Double finals for City of Manchester as Cheltenham and Worthing book places

City of Manchester were involved in two enthralling U17s semi-finals on the opening day of the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships 2022.

Both their boys and girls teams progress to Sunday’s finals after close fought battles against City of Liverpool and Cheltenham respectively.

Sunday’s U17s girls final will see Manchester face Cheltenham and the U17s boys’ final will be Worthing taking on the Manchester club.

Liverpool and Sheffield go head-to-head for the girls bronze and Watford and Cheltenham are the boys bronze medal challengers.

Manchester’s ‘nerve-racking’ win

The opening match of the event saw City of Manchester take on City of Liverpool in the first of the U17s girls’ semi-finals.

It was a tightly fought contest, with Manchester taking a 10-9 win over their rivals.

Manchester’s Lucy Blenkinship and Amelia Brooksbank scored a hat-trick each, Lilly Price scored a double and both Evie Brown and Charlotte Pritchard got on the scoresheet.

The goal scorers for Liverpool were Hannah Pyper with five, Isabella Smithson clinched a hat-trick and Lily Ireland added one.

Izzy Howe, City of Manchester head coach, described it as ‘nerve-racking’ but her side were ‘happy to come away with the win’.

She said: “To be fair to Liverpool, they played really well and some of their players stepped up so well that we didn’t really plan for, so it was a bit of a shock to us and we had to adapt.

“Obviously winning 10-9 is very nerve-racking but we’re very happy to come away with the win.

“As a club we haven’t been to the finals for four years now at this age group. Quite a few years ago we used to dominate pretty much, but we’ve had a massive lull so this is our first age group that’s really coming up as the competitive age group.

“To get back to that point and being in the final tomorrow is huge for the club.”

Manchester halt Cheltenham comeback

It was a high scoring encounter between Manchester and Cheltenham in the U17s boys’ semi-final.

Cheltenham looked to be coming back after a surge of late goals, but it was City of Manchester who took the 18-17 win.

Grabbing the goals were Manchester’s Robert Bentham (6), Oli Salimbeni (4), Leo Velardi (3), Joe Carolan (2), Sam Fitzsimons (2) and Chris Jones (1).

Converting for Cheltenham were Louie McKie (6), Toby Chilcott (6), Harrison Walsh (2), Noha Knights-Hume (1), Thomas Dally (1) and Liam Barnes (1).

On the boys win, Howe added: “Obviously I’m really happy to come away with a win, I think at times the boys were very disciplined and that’s something that the head coach, Andy [Mcginty], really tries to install into them.

“I think at times they did that but they had a standout out player who created so much for them and caused us so many problems and scored a lot of goals.

“But I’m really happy to come away with the win and take that into tomorrow.”

Cheltenham ‘delighted’ to make final

In the other U17 girls’ semi-final, Cheltenham were victorious over City of Sheffield.

They put 14 goals past their opposition and conceded just 10 to earn their place in Sunday’s final.

Cheltenham’s Amelie Perkins was the stand out performer after she bagged 50 per cent of the goals for her side, finding the net seven times.

Isabella Balzaretti scored five, with Lily Ross also adding two goals.

The majority of City of Sheffield’s goals came via Izzy Olcer who managed six. Ruby Taylor scored a hat-trick and Lola Carver-Brown got on the scoresheet.

On the performance, Cheltenham head coach, Chris Taylor, said: “It was absolutely amazing, it’s always hard because a lot of the girls have only travelled here this morning and it’s really difficult to get that focus straight off the bat.

“But the girls came in and the great thing is that they played amazing and we’ve still got little tweaks we can make ahead of the final, which means we’ve still got a lot left.

“I think it’s ours to play for. For us this year, for Cheltenham, there’s four teams in both the U17s boys and girls, which is unprecedented for our club.

“It’s already an incredible year for us being U15s girl’s champions. That silver medal is in the bag no matter what so it’s a matter of going into the final and enjoying it.

“I’ve got every faith in the girls going all the way and claiming the gold, but it’s still all about enjoying that polo tomorrow.”

Worthing earn win over Watford

The other U17s boys’ semi-final saw Worthing come out on top against Watford with an 8-4 win.

Henry Broadhurst put away six of his team’s eight goals, with Tumay Evcimen Junior and Indy Nash grabbing the other two.

Watford’s Matthew Williams doubled up for his side and teammates Aksal Gerhardstein and Ryan Cubitt scored one each.

Worthing head coach, Alastair Roberts, said: “We’re delighted to be in the final but I think we can play better.

“I don’t think that we found our level today. To be fair to Watford they made it very hard for us, putting up a very decent display, but I’m just delighted to have made the final.

“I don’t see us as just representing the South East, we’re a club side, it’s a national competition and we come and play wherever we have to come and play.

“We’re really happy to be in the final and have a chance of winning the whole competition.

“To win it you have to be in the final and as the old cliché goes, we’ll take each game as it comes and hopefully tomorrow we can go win it all – we’ll see.”

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