British Gas ASA National Age Group Water Polo Champs
Last year’s event gave City of Manchester a clean sweep of gold medals, but this year four new victors emerged. The 2014 British Gas ASA National Age Group Water Polo Championships included some very exciting matches over the two days at Manchester Aquatics Centre.
The Youth Girls final was between Otter (picture above) and Liverpool, the former having beaten reining champions City of Manchester in the semis. Otter started strong, with a 4-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Liverpool fought back hard against the London-based team to bring the score level at 5-5. But Otter were not to be beaten, showing their strength and fitness in the final quarter to win the match by three goals with a 10-7 triumph. The Most Valuable Player award, chosen by 2012 Olympian Fiona McCann, was awarded to Otter's Izzy Dean who scored six goals in the final and two in the semi final.
In the Youth Boys Final, Croydon and Invicta met, and an even playing field ended the first half with a score of 5-4 to Croydon. Just five minutes from the end Croydon had put distance between the teams, and were 11-4 up, but Invicta put on an impressive comeback to bring the closing score to 11-8. Invicta captain Ben Tinkler-Davies was awarded the Most Valuable Player crown by GBR Men’s team players Joe O’Regan and Jonny Kirk.
The Junior Girls final, for the second year running, was between City of Manchester and Liverpool. The 2013 champions City of Manchester made a confident start, landing a goal within the first 60 seconds of play and pulled away in the first quarter to put a 4-1 margin over their northern rivals. Liverpool were not put off and managed to level on 6-6 at the start of the second half, and go on to take the lead for the first time just three minutes from the final whistle. With the game tight right up until the end, Lauren Tasker scored the crucial tenth goal to secure victory for Liverpool, over the reigning champions.
With a win for the 2013 champs City of Manchester left to the Junior Boys to achieve, Solihull had some strong competition. In a cat-and-mouse first half, scores were close at 8-7 to Manchester after a goal from Aaron Winstanley with one second to go. The tug of war continued into the third quarter as Solihull went into the lead again, finishing 12-11 before a tense final quarter. Both teams scored twice again, leaving Solihull the winners, denying City of Manchester yet another title. Lewis Daly of City of Manchester was awarded Most Valuable Player.
Third place play-offs
In the bronze medal matches, Crawley beat last year's champs City of Manchester in the Youth Girls, while City of Manchester also lost out in the Youth Boys, with Watford securing bronze. In the Junior Girls match, Londer Otters claimed bronze for a second year running, with a convincing win over Crawley. A vital goal six seconds from the final whistle gave Cheltenham Junior Boys the win over Croydon.