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North East Steelers defend Boys' U18 Inter Regional title

North East Steelers retained the E Harding Payne trophy with victory at the 2016 U18 Boys’ Inter Regional Championships in Watford.

The Steelers defeated London region 16-4 (5-1, 4-2, 2-2, 5-4) in the final, capping a campaign that saw them extend their unbeaten streak since the 2015 Championships..

North East region were impressive in topping Group A on the opening day in Watford, racking up a goal difference of +38 after victories over the South East and London regions as well as Wales and Ireland.

A tough match against five-time champions and Group B runners-up North West Tigers awaited in the semi-finals.

But the Steelers never looked like being turned over by their Northern rivals, racing to a 4-1 lead before closing out a 6-3 win.

London region awaited in the final, having recovered from 2-0 down against Group B winners South West region to win their semi-final 3-2. Yalin Gulen was one of the heroes in the semis, scoring the winner with 11 seconds on the clock.

But there was little London could do against a Steelers onslaught in the final as North East established a four-goal lead in the first quarter.

London pushed the Steelers closer in the remaining three quarters but North East’s firepower ultimately proved too much, with nine different Steelers goalscorers in the final.

Players were asked to play a fast-paced game

“Players were asked to play a fast-paced game based on solid defence and aggressive counter-attacking,” said Steelers coach Richard Cousins.

“They’ve trained hard at all levels from club, to monthly CoS Beacon and National Talent level and I knew they were fit enough for the constant motion and constant counter-attacking style of game.

“The credit goes to the players who accepted this style of play and adapted to whatever the opposition threw at them. Players weren’t afraid to take chances and were not afraid to take a lower percentage shot that might not go in.

“This was a tremendous team performance where every player was involved.”