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Close contests as Cheltenham, Worthing and Sheffield secure finals places

It was a tale of close contests and late winners as Cheltenham, Worthing and Sheffield booked places in Sunday’s finals at the GoCardless Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships 2024 (U17/U19).

Cheltenham secured spots in both of the U19s finals followed victories for their open and female teams.

The U19 Open final sees them take on Worthing, while City of Sheffield are their opponents in the U19 Female final.

City of Manchester and Worthing will battle it out in the U19 Female bronze medal match and Corrib will face off against Caledonia for U19 Open bronze.

Worthing win thriller against Corrib

A determined Worthing side were pushed all the way by Corrib in what was a thrilling encounter between the two sides.

It was the team from West Sussex who took the spoils and progressed through to Sunday’s U19 Open final after a 10-9 win.

There were strong showings from both goalkeepers, Worthing’s Felix Monaghan and Corrib’s Liam Smyth, which made for a closely fought match up.

The sides matched each other goal for goal throughout the majority of the first quarter, but it was Worthing who took the advantage before the break after a successful shot from Henry Broadhurst to make it 4-3.

Worthing opened up a two goal lead during the second quarter but it wasn’t long before Corrib got back into the match courtesy of third quarter goals from Ewen LeDuigou Etayo and Paddy Cunningham Smyth – followed by another from Colm Shaughnessy which placed them in the ascendency.

However, it wasn’t long before the lead changed hands once again through a quick-fire double scored by Tumay Evcimen Jnr.

The score stood at 8-7 in favour of Worthing with just one quarter remaining and despite late penalty drama, both teams netted twice and Worthing maintained their one goal advantage to secure a 10-9 win.

Cheltenham clinch the first of two victories

Close contests were a running theme of the U19 Open matches, as Cheltenham edged out Caledonia 11-8 in the second semi-final.

Cheltenham will return to the gold medal match for the third year running after they were crowned champions in 2022 and took the silver medal last time out.

Consistency was key for both sides, with Caledonia scoring twice in every quarter to finish with a total of eight goals. Three of those were from a Murray Dickson hat-trick.

Cheltenham netted twice in the first quarter and three times in each quarter thereafter which allowed them to open up a slender lead over their opposition.

Louie McKie was the standout in front of goal for Cheltenham – bagging four goals for his side during the semi-final clash.

But it was a goal late in the final quarter from Tobias Chilcott that sealed the 11-8 victory.

Sheffield steal the show

The match up between City of Manchester and City of Sheffield promised to be exciting and it definitely delivered, keeping crowds guessing with single goal differences and tight equalisers.

Last year, the gold medal went to City of Manchester, but they were denied the opportunity to defend their title by a last gasp winner from City of Sheffield’s Connie Swainson which earned a 15-14 win for her side.

The first quarter saw City of Manchester open the scoring, with Charlotte Pritchard finding the net first.

However, the sides cancelled each other out in the first half, with nothing to separate the pair as half time arrived and the scoreboard stood at 6-6.

The third quarter started with a goal in the opening seconds from Manchester’s Nicole Kelly which was swiftly met with a return score from Sheffield’s Lauren Olcer.

Charlotte Pritchard then put Manchester back in front but only briefly as, again, Sheffield equalised this time through Ruby Taylor.

After battling to stay in the match, Sheffield put themselves ahead through a double from Swainson which gave them a 10-9 lead heading into the final quarter.

The drama didn’t stop there, as both teams managed five goals each. Both Amelia Crompton and Isabel Olcer scored fourth quarter hat-tricks to keep their sides in contention but it was ultimately City of Sheffield who clinched a 15-14 victory.

Cheltenham dispatch Worthing

The only dominant victory in the U19 matches came in the second female semi-final, which was the final tie of the opening day in Gloucester.

Cheltenham started fast and didn’t let up throughout. A swift counter attack saw Alice Shields convert to put them ahead early on.

Worthing’s Lillie-Rose Standen powered home a penalty to level the scores but there was an immediate reaction from Cheltenham as Adriana Rodriguez placed her shot into the top corner.

Another tidy finish, this time from Isabella Balzaretti, saw a low shot find its way into the net and Cheltenham then went on to add a further four goals with just the one in return, taking the score to 7-2.

It was more of the same from Cheltenham throughout the remainder of the match, reducing Worthing to just two further goals until full-time with some fingertip saves being made from Cheltenham goalkeeper, Sophie Leveridge.

The two that did beat the keeper were scored by Rebecca Smith and Florence Cooper.

A second quarter hat-trick from Georgia Haslam and four goals in the third quarter from Amelie Perkins, one of which was a fantastic reverse shot, saw Cheltenham build an unassailable lead.

Those significant contributions, combined with a number of others adding their name to the scoresheet, meant there was no way back for Worthing and Cheltenham earned a 21-4 win.

You can keep up with all the scores by visiting the live scoreboard and see all the reports from the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships here.

Images – Will Johnston Photography