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Proud North West Thunder coach praises her sides Inter Regionals success

A ‘proud’ North West Thunder head coach ,Laura Hesketh, praised her sides efforts as they claimed the U14 Girls’ Water Polo Inter Regional Championships.

After losing out in the final in 2022, North West went one better this time around by defeating London Sharks 14-8 in the gold medal match.

It meant that the North West made it a double of U14 Inter Regional titles in 2023 after the boys side earnt a rewarding victory at the Walsall Gala Baths last month.

North West Thunder went undefeated throughout the competition, winning three and drawing one of their group stage matches before recording victories in both the semi-final and final.

A tight 2-2 draw with Ireland was the only blip on their group stage record after victories against eventual finalists London, East Angels and a narrow 5-4 victory over Scotland.

Those results saw them amass seven points to top Group A and set up a semi-final against Group B runners-up South West Sharks.

A controlled performance saw them put 19 goals past the South West in a 19-1 win, which saw them come face-to-face with Group A runners-up London Sharks in the final.

After a 6-2 victory over London in their opening match, North West were the favourites heading into the gold medal match but London put in a battling display despite their defeat.

The side from the capital kept in the match throughout but the quality of the North West team shone through in the end as they powered to a 14-8 win.

It was a strong start that set them on their way with tournament MVP Lily Watson scoring a hat trick in the opening quarter to help her side into a 5-2 lead early on.

From there they never looked back with Watson adding three more to her tally throughout the match up as the North West managed the game expertly to secure the title.

Sticking together as a team

North West scored 64 goals across the weekend and their head coach, Hesketh, said the success was a ‘testament’ to her teams hard work.

She said: “I am so proud of what the girls have achieved this weekend.

“After the success of the North West U14 boys in November, we knew we needed to put in the hard work during the group stage, coming up against both Irish and Scottish national teams, and then keep our composure in the semi-final and final to match their efforts.

“With only two players in the team that had competed previously in this competition they have done extremely well to bring home the gold for the region.

“Their success is a real testament to the girls, with every member of the team scoring, giving us a tally of 64 goals over the weekend.

“I am also thrilled that two of our players have been recognised for their overall performances, Lily Watson as the Tournament’s MVP and Issy Taylor as the Tournament’s Top Goal Keeper.”

A delighted Poppy Clarke, North West Thunder co-captain added: “We all worked really hard in the build up to the competition and everyone should be really proud of themselves for the way we stuck together as a team, particularly against Ireland and Scotland which were really tough!

“It was great to have all our family members there cheering us on which gave us that extra boost! Huge shout out to coaches Laura and Nicola and team managers Gemma and Sian.”

Incredible event

South West bounced back from their semi-final defeat to avenge their group stage loss to the West Midlands Warriors in the bronze medal match.

The Sharks turned a 7-5 defeat from day one into a narrow 10-9 victory to secure bronze against the home pool side that topped Group B.

After an even first half, South West put six past the West Midlands in the third period with Lottie Smith and Molly Dean both grabbing a hat trick to put their side in control of the match.

West Midlands fought back in the fourth but could only bring the scores to within one despite the efforts of competition top scorer Imogen Blassberg who scored eight of her sides nine goals across the match.

The competition organiser, Joanne Mountfield, expressed thanks to those involved with the event.

She said: “Thank you to Ian Mackenzie, Chair of the Water Polo Leadership Group, and Jenny Pearson, West Midland Regional President for presenting the awards.

“Also thanks to the West Midland Region for hosting another incredible event for more than 100 players, particularly event manager Debbie Arthur and her team of fabulous volunteers.”

MVP Awards

  • East Angels – Penny Wright
  • Ireland – Neysa Connolly
  • London Sharks – Manpreet Gill
  • North East Steelers – Ellen Henry
  • North West Thunder – Sianna Tamlin
  • Scotland – Emily Lake
  • South East – Maia Middleton
  • South West Sharks – Molly Dean
  • West Midland Warriors – Imogen Blassberg

Event Awards

(Sponsored by Wyvern Swimwear)

  • Top Goalkeeper: Issy Taylor (North West Thunder)
  • Top Goalscorer: Imogen Blassberg (West Midland Warriors)
  • Overall MVP Award: Lily Watson (North West Thunder)


North West Thunder
6 – 2
London Sharks
East Angels11 – 1818IrelandFT
West Midland Warriors77 – 55South West SharksFT
North East Steelers33 – 1111South EastFT
Scotland1818 – 11East AngelsFT
Ireland22 – 22North West ThunderFT
West Midland Warriors88 – 88South EastFT
South West Sharks77 – 66North East SteelersFT
Scotland55 – 88London SharksFT
North West Thunder2222 – 11East AngelsFT
West Midland Warriors99 – 66North East SteelersFT
South West Sharks77 – 33South EastFT
Ireland22 – 77London SharksFT
Scotland44 – 55North West ThunderFT
East Angels00 – 1212London SharksFT
Ireland33 – 33ScotlandFT

Group A

North West Thunder4310267
London Sharks4301166
East Angels4004-670

Group B

West Midland Warriors321055
South West Sharks320134
South East311143
North East Steelers3003-120

Play-Off Stage

East Angels
5 – 15
North East Steelers
Semi Finals
North West Thunder 19 – 1South West Sharks 10.15
West Midlands Warriors 6 – 11London SharksFT
5th-6th Play-off
Ireland 18 – 4South East FT
Bronze Medal Match
South West Sharks10 – 9West Midlands Warriors FT
Gold Medal Match
North West Thunder14 – 8London SharksFT