Super silver for Team Ipswich

A determined team of young water polo players from Team Ipswich represented their county at the East Region Junior Championship in Bishop's Stortford, pulling off a great performance to finish in the silver medal position.

WATER POLO

A determined team of young water polo players from Team Ipswich represented their county at the East Region Junior Championship in Bishop's Stortford, pulling off a great performance to finish in the silver medal position.

The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) established the East Region in 2005, comprising the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, and this year the region launched a new water polo event, the Junior Championship, open to county teams of boys and girls aged 16 or under.

Five county teams converged on the modern pool at Bishop's Stortford College at the weekend to play a round robin tournament. Spectators included East Region president Don Neate and past president Andy Morton.

Team Ipswich Water Polo, the only active club in Suffolk, fielded their junior team to represent the county. The seven Suffolk youngsters were travelling without any reserve players and knew they faced a huge test of stamina and endurance.

For 13-year-olds Jack Chamberlain and Nick Fisher, playing in their first tournament, it was a special challenge, but Dick Bloomfield, the Suffolk coach, was confident ahead of proceedings.

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He said: “You couldn't ask for a keener squad. I know our players will give it everything they've got.”

The first two games saw a convincing win for Cambridgeshire over a very young Essex side and a close Herts victory over Beds. Suffolk then took to the water against Cambs and notched up a 3-1 win with goals from James Bigley, Tom Ealham and Peter Stephens.

Herts then crushed Essex, before Suffolk recorded an emphatic 6-0 victory against Beds with more goals from Bigley, Ealham and Stephens. Yet another win for Herts established them two points clear of Suffolk at the top of the table.

The stage was now set for the game that would decide the championship and Herts looked to be favourites with nine strong players against Suffolk's seven. Tension was high as Suffolk opened the scoring, only to see Herts counter-attack repeatedly and take a 3-1 lead. Undeterred, the Suffolk team fought back and Ealham found the net with a mighty long-range shot moments before the half-time whistle.

The second half opened with Suffolk levelling the scores to 3-3 thanks to a stunning back flip from Stephens, but without the benefit of substitutes the team were tiring and, despite valiant efforts from Suffolk defenders Josh Pickover and Robert Pryke, the Herts attack were able to press home their advantage to take the win at 6-3 and clinch the title.

A thrilling game between Cambs and Beds for the bronze position ended in a 3-3 draw, while Suffolk finished with a 9-1 goalfest against Essex, including maiden goals from Fisher, Pickover and Pryke. Although they finished bottom of the table, plucky Essex deserve a special mention for their enthusiasm and team spirit when facing older and stronger teams.

The exciting championship closed with Cambs collecting bronze on goal difference, Suffolk taking silver and Herts winning the gold medals and the Andy Morton trophy.

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