The English Schools’ Swimming Association (ESSA) senior boys Water Polo team have been crowned champions at the Exiles International Invitation Tournament in Malta.
Captain Lewis Daly and the team lifted the trophy following a thrilling winner-takes-all final match against hosts Malta.
The sixteen England players aged 16/17 were competing in the five-day prestigious tournament at the National Aquatics Stadium in Sliema against two South African teams, the Dutch junior champions and a Malta representative side.
"It’s an unreal feeling to have won every game and been crowned champions.” - Lewis Daly, Captain
One of eight earning their first international cap was Joe Hazeldine who scored two great goals in the opening game against South Africa 1sts. After a slow start trailing 4-6 at half-time the boys fought back to win the last two quarters 5-2 and secure a memorable 9-8 victory.
The ESSA team went on to ruthlessly tear through South Africa 2nds from the first whistle and continuously drive forward throughout the match to produce an emphatic 19-7 win.
In goal, Watford’s Peter Pickford excelled on his international debut as he produced some tremendous saves and stopped a penalty.
Later that day the team produced another excellent display to triumph 9-5 over Dutch national champions Widex GZC Donk and make it three wins from three.
With Malta also having a 100% record, it set the tournament finale up nicely with both teams sitting joint top of the table having taken maximum points.
A noisy passionate Malta following was not enough to faze the ESSA team at the National Aquatics Stadium who started strongly taking a 3-2 first quarter lead.
ESSA then began to dominate in the second quarter winning 6-1, before building an all-important seven-goal advantage (12-5) going into the final quarter. With controlled play and tireless work the team triumphed over the hosts with a commanding 19-8 victory to take the trophy.
“What an absolutely amazing experience it was to beat Malta 19-8 in the final game to win the competition,” said Daly after the match. “It’s been a great team effort, a huge achievement and it’s an unreal feeling to have won every game and been crowned champions.”
ESSA’s top tournament goal scorer Aaron Winstanley said “We’ve played some excellent water polo this week. Our defence has been really, really strong and we’ve cut the other teams off, allowing us to go on and win. It’s an amazing feeling to know we’ll be going home as champions."
ESSA OVERALL TOURNAMENT GOALSCORERS:
Aaron Winstanley (13), Jordan Elliot (10), Lewis Daly (8), Will Rayson (7), Rudi Polster (5), Joe Hazeldine (4), Dan Paddon (3), Tom Prayle (2), Rob Gourley (2), Alfie Brown (1) & Joel Leighton (1)
Dylan Green – Oldham College, Oldham, Gtr Manchester
Peter Pickford – Watford Grammar School for Boys, Herts
Jordan Elliot – Longslade Community College, Leics
Will Rayson – All Saints Academy, Cheltenham, Glous
Dan Paddon – Great Baddow High School, Essex
Joel Leighton – High Storrs School, Sheffield, Yorks
Aaron Winstanley – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
Lewis Daly – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
Rudi Polster – Cleeve School, Glous
Joe Hazeldine – Worthing College, W.Sussex
Tom Prayle – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
Rob Gourley – Manchester Grammar School, Gtr Manchester
Remmy Gorton – Xaverian VIth Form College, Gtr Manchester
Sam Richards – Bolton School, Gtr Manchester
Sam Wordley – Exeter College, Devon
Alfie Brown – Glyn School, Epsom, Surrey