LANCASTER played City of Manchester in the ASA Under 16 Boys final held at the Manchester Aquatic Centre on April 28.
Lancaster started the game positively as Sam Routledge found the net with a strong swim and shot.
However, a fierce shot from seven metres saw Manchester draw level, leaving the score 1-1 at the end of the first quarter.
The two young teams worked tirelessly in the mid-bath battle, causing their supporters great anxiety as first one team attacked, then the other.
The scores remained deadlocked at one each with the respective defences and more importantly goalkeepers making vital interceptions and saves.
With one minute of the quarter remaining Routledge restored Lancaster’s lead, only to see Manchester equalise on the next attack to make it 2-2 at the end of the second quarter.
The third quarter continued in the same vein, both sides attacking but unable to break down the opposition’s resolute defence.
Lancaster were starting to attack more and were awarded a penalty.
Alas they could not convert the free shot but Lancaster were now creating more attacking options and were awarded a second penalty.
Unfortunately for them, this went the same way as the first.
The coaches of both sides tired changing their formations but were still unable to alter the scoreline. 2-2 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter exploded into life as Routledge scored his and Lancaster’s third goal.
Lancaster continued to attack as Manchester suffered an exclusion.
Gary Ellwood, Lancaster’s coach, called a time out and from the resultant set play Routledge scored to increase his side’s lead to two goals.
This gave Manchester the motivation they needed and they scored with a speculative lob from eight metres.
Confusion in the Lancaster defence allowed Manchester to equalise, but with less than two minutes of the game remaining Manchester had a player excluded.
Coach Ellwood called another time-out and the inspirational Routledge scored from the set play. On Manchester’s next attack their coach called a time-out. Lancaster marshalled their defence, as lack of concentration could be costly.
Stalwart defending saw Lancaster regain possession and see out the game, winning 5-4.
Dominic Lock made crucial saves in Lancaster’s goalthroughout the game, while Sebastian Reichel worked tirelessly and covered a lot of water, harassing the Manchester attack.
Zak Lamb showed great polo awareness, working intelligently for four quarters, while Joe Barker protected the pit defender with great skill and composure, and supported the attackers.
Dean Akister defended admirably throughout, keeping the Manchester forwards under constant pressure.
James Pratt starred defensively as he kept the shackles on the Manchester pit forward.
Josh Barret worked hard as he covered more water to offer a real threat down the right, while Andy Robinson supported the forward play with his countless attacking breaks, causing Manchester to defend desperately at times.
Sam Routledge was the real thorn in Manchester’s side. He was voted the match’s most valuable player, producing a threat every time he got the ball in the attacking half of the pitch.
Routledge scored all of Lancaster’s goals and with a bit more luck could have scored more.
Thomas Prayle, Jordan Titley, Fen Bleasdale and Aaron Mason, although they did not get much time in the water during the final, had produced enormous contributions to the team during the preliminary and qualifying rounds.
The Lancaster coaches Gary Ellwood, Zak Sly and Ron Winn, had worked hard this year in getting the team ready for the competition.
The team had been working towards this goal since February with four polo training sessions plus four swimming sessions a week.