Following their success in the East Regional Finals earlier this month, our U18 indoor hockey team gave an outstanding performance at the National Finals last weekend, finishing in third/fourth place.
The tournament proved to be exhilarating and exciting, yet agonising, as on day two our fate was dependent on the results of the other teams. Our boys put on an amazing performance, grasping the mettle once their fate was back in their hands. We saw fabulous team-play against Altrincham, including staunch defending and strong attacking, drawing defenders to put several field goals in. A determined effort against Whitgift School kept us within a whisker of making the finals throughout.
One parent commented that they were astounded at the constant shuttle-running of the forwards and the speed with which they worked back when the ball was turned over. Additionally, the pace of the game required such rapid decision making at all times!
Director of Hockey Mr Sam Mee said, “All in all a tough one to take when reflecting on the weekend as we were certainly prepared well enough and certainly had the players to go and win the tournament! However, a top four finish in a national competition is an outstanding achievement by the boys. The lads were a real credit to the school throughout and were complimented on their attitude and all round manner throughout the tournament. The commitment they have shown to the programme has been outstanding; between two and three sessions after school and a lunchtime session per week plus approximately seven Wednesday nights playing at 7.00 to 9.00pm at school.”
Here is a summary of the games and thanks to Mrs Smith, one of the parents, who captured the tournament on camera.
Game 1 3 -2 loss against St Georges. First game nerves possibly prevented a better performance. The boys were in control for long periods but two costly goals before half time when we were 1-0 up meant we were chasing the rest of the game. We missed a short corner on the final whistle
Game 2 4-4 draw with Repton. An epic for the neutral! We were 3-2 up with the points looking to be sealed with 90 seconds to go, then chaos ensued. We conceded a goal (3-3), we then scored an excellent goal from Tom Blythman with 36 seconds to go to go 4-3 up, only for a dubious decision to go against us and somehow they squeezed a goal in to make it 4-4. At this stage, we were then reliant on other results and knew we had to win both our remaining two games against the best two teams in the group.
Game 3 2-1 win against Dean Close. Another epic, fantastic performance just lacking in clinical finishing in the circle. We knew they needed a win also and, with two minutes to go in a game where they were always second best, they took off their keeper, and we scored to make it 2-1 and keep alive.
Game 4 We were hoping for an Altrincham loss to Repton or St Georges to drop points. Altrincham beat Repton comfortably 6-0. At warm-up, we did not know if we were still in the competition or not as St Georges played before our game. After the final whistle had gone Dean Close had three corners, scoring the final 1 to make it 2-2. It was now in our hands due to our superior goal difference.
Game 5 3-1 win against Altrincham Grammar. This was our most complete performance of the tournament. Altrincham did not touch the ball for more than three passes in the first seven minutes and we looked comfortable throughout. Dan Smith scored two goals to make it 3-1.
Game 6 5-3 loss against Whitgift (eventual winners). A game too many and we had to cope with the huge loss of Will Barnes, a leader and one of our key defenders who had played every minute of every game up to this point. Three individual errors cost us three goals in the first half, but in the second half we were on top for large parts and, a few moments in the game, had they gone the other way, it would have been a completely different story. They managed to secure the game with a fifth goal as we pressed forward looking for an equaliser.