Suffolk U-16s snatch water polo victory

SWIMMING: Victory is once again in the hands of Ipswich, after a spectacular water polo performance by the town's junior players.In the second Eastern Region Under-16 tournament, the Ipswich club convincingly took the title at a tense Chelmsford-based match.

By Debbie Watson

VICTORY is once again in the hands of Ipswich, after a spectacular water polo performance by the town's junior players.

In the second Eastern Region Under-16 tournament, the Ipswich club convincingly took the title at a tense Chelmsford-based match.

For the Suffolk side it was undoubtedly a glorious win, given that the team had already taken glory in the first Eastern tournament at this level back in May.

Playing at New Hall School in Chelmsford, Ipswich fielded a very different squad to its original May line-up.

With Matt Morgan and Stuart Baker already departed for the senior ranks, and with Andy Slater and Lucy Celerier unavailable, the Suffolk side needed some new and impressive young blood.

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Fortunately the side was able to welcome the last-minute addition of Abbie Thorrington, Ipswich's top junior triathlete. A member of Ipswich Swimming Club, Thorrington convincingly made her presence felt throughout the fast-paced matches.

Ipswich started their victorious run with a match against Brentwood and in the first period the team was quickly five goals up, with centre forward Scott Tovell scoring three. Two of these were produced with superb backhand flips.

Other goals came from David Orchard and Owen Stephens who built on a high work-rate and good swimming from Thorrington, with determined support work from Abigail Ruffles in midfield and solid defence from Ed Hunt.

Ipswich became 6-2 winners at the final whistle after Tovell added another goal in the last minute.

After a one-match breather, Ipswich were quickly back in action against Chelmsford. Hat-tricks came for both Orchard and Tovell while the Ipswich defenders contained Chelmsford's attack to win 6-4.

Then, after only a few minutes rest, Ipswich took on Hailsham.

Hailsham had caused most problems for Ipswich in the May event and again were confident and well-disciplined. However, Ipswich started well and by half-time were in a strong position after Thorrington opened her scoring account in fine style.

The spectators greeted her first-ever goal with deafening joy when she kept her cool and she then found the net for a second time.

Tovell kept the scoreline moving with another well-taken backflip, while Thorrington's fitness started to show as she used her speed to get past the Hailsham defenders and pressurise the goalkeeper.

Hailsham then turned up the heat with a man-to-man marking strategy which restricted Ipswich's attempts to get the ball to centre-forward Tovell.

Goalkeeper Clare McCartney made an excellent diving save while Hunt, Stephens and Ruffles contained the Hailsham attack and at half-time Ipswich led 3-2.

The second-half proved tough on Ipswich as tiredness began to show, but the team rallied together in a determined attempt to claim the title.

A superb last-minute goal from Orchard brought the spectators to their feet as he punched the air in triumph to give Ipswich a 5-4 success. With that result came the notification that they had clinched the championship.

Coach Dick Bloomfield was delighted at his team's performance and said: "They've done Ipswich proud once again!"

The victory for Ipswich's Under-16s comes on the back of a successful stint for Ipswich's adult water polo squad in recent weeks.

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