UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD SECONDS 12 – 6 UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS
On Monday night the men’s water polo team travelled to their final BUCS league fixture at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield for one of their most testing matches, in which they proved themselves admirably against the host’s seconds team.
The match, being played outside of the usual BUCS tournament structure, was to be played in the diving pit and some of the more nervous team-members got a little edgy as they stared into the depths during the dry-side warm up.
Sheffield opened the scoring in their first attack. York had lost the ball in the swim-off and had the pit-defence sent out. Sheffield moved the ball slowly, but a well-placed and powerful shot slipped past the fingers of York ‘keeper, Young Gawthorpe.
York were unused to playing with shot clocks, which limit each attack to thirty seconds. Their first three attacks weren’t sharp enough. Time ran out and possession was reversed before a shot was taken.
A failed Sheffield counter attack gave York a chance to counter the counter and equalise when Wen Zhe Lim broke free of his defender and took the ball to within five meters of the goal before striking with deadly accuracy, slotting the ball into the top right hand corner, away from the agile Sheffield ‘keeper, whose only weakness seemed to be his short arms.
York were putting in a sterling effort to shut down the rapid Sheffield counter attacks, and narrowly missed an opportunity to take the lead. Pierre Fromage tried to lob the petite ‘keeper in a one-on-one attempt on goal. The ball hit the crossbar and Sheffield picked up the rebound.
Earlier in the season York had suffered from a lack of confidence and missed many chances to take shots. Intensive practice and a kick up the proverbial from Coach Burns in training rectified this and three brilliant shots were saved by the springy Sheffield ‘keeper, who was leaping all over the place like a dolphin, before the home team managed to make another serious attempt on goal. This was largely down to the hard work put in by the York defence.
When Sheffield did get an opportunity to shoot, it was from a break away and it went in. Soon after, York equalised again, this time through Sam Haywood. Haywood’s unconventional shot saw the ball spin and curve in the air, bounce off the water a meter or so from the ‘keeper, and continue curving its way into the back of the net.
However, Sheffield took the lead again just before half time from a man up play, taking a 3-2 lead.
The second quarter didn’t go as well as the first for the Black and Gold. Sheffield scored five goals to York’s one. It seemed Sheffield’s numbers (they had a full team of thirteen) were making a difference. Their star breakaway artists were able to take a rest, while York’s boys had to conserve with only two substitutes. Marshall scored York’s only goal of the quarter from pit, turning his defender and slamming the ball home, yet the deficit was now 3-8.
The half time break allowed York to take stock of their performance and energy levels. With the end of the trial in sight, ‘steady’ became the York watchword. They were cautious in attack, looking to cover the breakaways. They worked hard at it and worked doubly hard defending man ups. Filippo Cocozza scored for York with his signature shot – a slight kick up before driving the ball forward with bone-breaking power. Nevertheless, Sheffield still found room for two more goals, meaning York were 1-4 down going in to the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter, a tired York assumed the underdog mentality. Though they were more tired than Sheffield, the boys had nothing to lose and engaged in a physical quarter with all players grappling fiercely and taking every opportunity they could to score. Both York’s Gawthorpe and Sheffield’s athletic goalkeeper performed excellently and the quarter finished with an even score line, though it’s a shame the same could not be said for the match as a whole. York goals came from Cramer and Matyas Molnar as the final score rested a 12-6 to Sheffield.
York captain Cramer said the match was “the best we’ve played all term. I couldn’t be more proud of these gentlemen. They focused and put into practice all we’ve learned in training. They’re commitment and their hard work has paid off. They’ve come a long way from the start of the season. Sure, we lost, but we played bloody good polo. We know we can play like that now, so there’s no reason not to in the future.”
This final BUCS league fixture places the team 4th in BUCS Division 1, and secured 23 BUCS points.
If you want to see the team take on Durham, they’re playing at 21.30 on Monday 10 February at the York Sport Village on the Heslington East Campus.
York Squad: Gawthorpe (GK), Cramer (C), Marshall, Lim, Cocozza, Molnar, Fromage, Haywood, Edwards.