Having taken part in the National Finals since 2004, and having enjoyed a successful weekend in Bath last year, this year’s team had a lot to live up to. We had worked hard all year, and were looking forward to competing at the highest level possible in this sport.
Because we were back in Hatfield, we were once again ‘sponsored’ by The Novotel and were able to have breakfast together and prepare for the day ahead. We had team photographs in the grounds, and the pupils looked really smart in their new personalised polo-shirts and hoodies.
Once we arrived at the University’s Sports’ Village, the team warmed up, and we also received the news that the ‘Squad’ members who had come along to support the ‘A’ team were allowed to play as guests in one of the leagues.
Our ‘B’ team, captained by Evan, played four games against some very strong opposition. The first game, against Warren Wood, was very close. Both teams missed chances to take command of the game, and the final score was 5 – 3 to Warren Wood. The second game was against Sunninghill. This was a lesson for our ‘B’ Team in clinical finishing. Sunninghill are always very strong and would progress through to the semi-finals of the main competition. The final score was 12 – 3. Game 3 was very close again, and we were very lucky not win. The final score was 8 – 7, and the ‘A’ Team would play them in the Quarter Finals of the main competition. The ‘B’ Team’s final game was against local rivals Codicote, and this time we managed to get a win. This sort of highlighted our belief that the ‘B’ Team should have been in the Nationals having won all their games in the Regional’s earlier in the year.
It always seems to be the case that the ‘A’ Team are drawn in a ‘group of death’, and this year was no exception. We also heard that this was no coincidence, and the organisers try to put like teams together. Not what we would want, but to go all the way, you have to beat everyone! This year, our league contained two other National winners, the Scottish champions and another National Final regular.
Our four league games were very encouraging, and all players got to have a game. Wins against Greenmount, St Peter’s, The Downs and Strathblane saw the team make the quarter-finals. The team were playing very well, and in particular, James and Francis were linking very well, Francis scoring for fun, from many ‘impossible’ positions.
The quarter final was against Belmont. Once again we got off to a very good start and were soon several goals ahead. When the whistle went for the end of the game, the final score was 9 – 3, and we had secured a place in the semi-finals for the seventh year in a row. A win in this would put us as one of the top two schools in the country for the seventh year in a row. Not only did we beat Ropley, but we prevented them from scoring! I think this must be the first time a team playing in the semi-finals of a National Competition has failed to score. That goes to show the importance of the whole team, and not just the players playing in attack. Ryan was our key defender!
The final was against Altrincham School. We started very well, and were soon in the lead. Altrincham came back at us and had a very productive few minutes in the middle of the game to go ahead by two. For the remainder of the game, the two teams exchanged goals to leave the final score 8 – 6 to Altrincham. Although this was a little disappointing, to finish runners-up in a National Final was an outstanding performance. The School has now either finished first or second in the country for the last seven years. Tom and Rosie, two year 5s in the team are now very keen to try and make it eight years, when lacrosse starts again in September!