Men’s water polo unlucky against Durham

On Monday night, York’s men’s firsts played Durham firsts at home in a North East Division 1 UPolo fixture, where they were beaten by a more clinical Durham firsts side

UPolo North East Division 1

Image: Phillipa Grafton

Image: Phillipa Grafton

On Monday night, York’s men’s firsts played Durham firsts at home in a North East Division 1 UPolo fixture, which runs alongside the BUCS league. Despite Durham’s position at the top of the league, York were able to match them man for man and their fitness was equal to theirs, but their shooting wasn’t up to the standard displayed last week against Sheffield.

Durham got in a few lucky goals very early on that were scooped past York ‘keeper Young Gawthorpe, that put them three goals ahead early in the first quarter. York failed to answer and as they went into the second quarter goalless.

It was a frustrating start to the game. York was attacking the shallow end and Durham was taking full advantage of the fact. They defended by looming over the York players who were valiantly trying to tread water in keeping with the rules. Though the Durham players made an effort to tread water when the ball came near them, and with it the referee’s gaze, this dirty tactic allowed them to halt movement around the attacking arc. They were higher in the water and pushing the York attacks wide, so that whoever was in possession of the ball had few options.

York occupied the twilight zone between bad shooting and bad luck throughout the match. The referee was unsympathetic, preventing the Black and Gold from making opportunities they’d been practicing in training.

York’s second attack of the second quarter saw a Durham player sent out for pulling back York’s Francesco. York set up a standard man-up attack with four players lined up two metres from the goal; two out on the wings and two in line with the goal posts. The remaining two players placed themselves out on five metres from the goal roughly in line with the posts. The aims of this formation are to give the attack space to move a stretched defence, tire out the ‘keeper, and create the angles for a good shot.

York added a layer of complexity to the formation by rotating around and ending up with a third player on top, in this case Nick Boaz. The Italian duo of Cocozza and Francesco worked the ball around and Francesco gave Boaz a perfect pass: Boaz kicked himself half out of the water and buried the ball in the net.

Durham answered almost immediately after a counter attack. Goals were the dialogue of this phase of the match and Francesco took his first goal straight after the restart. Boaz had set up in pit and once the ball had been fed to him Durham dropped back on him. However, he had enough space to flick the ball back out to Francesco, who finished well.

What started as a dialogue quickly became a one sided conversation as Durham’s Matt Calvert, an ex-GB Junior, took two goals one from pit and on from the top of the arc. The metaphor doesn’t reflect the effort York put in to defend these attacks, and score their own goals. Post-match video analysis shows both Calvert’s goals to be controversial, especially the first.

At this point, Durham were attacking the shallow end and on film it looks like Calvert was shamelessly standing but, unfortunately, the referee’s decision is final. The final nail in the coffin came a few minutes later with another Durham goal, the fourth of the quarter.

After half time the game became more even. The score in the third quarter was 2-1 to Durham. York’s goal came from Wen Zhe Lim’s drive into the pit; his defender couldn’t keep up and no one came to cover, so Lim was left with the space to receive the pass and put the ball in the top right corner.

In the final quarter, neither team managed to score. The two exhausted but determined teams set up again and again in front of each other’s goals to no avail. Chances came and went, balls were saved or intercepted and eventually the clock ran down without any glory.

Special mention goes to Francesco and Boaz, both of whom were in the pool for the whole match. Their hard work was constant and imaginative.

“It was a disappointing match,” said York captain Gabriel Cramer, “especially after we played so well in Sheffield last week. I don’t think the score line reflects the effort we put in.”

Coach Chris Burn was adamant that “we matched them man for man”; they weren’t a more physical team, or even a fitter team, but they seemed to be sharper opportunists.

York play again on Wednesday at 1pm at the York Sport Village against Nottingham.

York Team: Gawthorpe , Francesco, Cramer (C), Fromage, Ball, Philpot, Haywood, Edwards, Boaz, Mpontinas, Cocozza, Wen Zhe Lim, Molnar.

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