Earlier this week over two days at Lee Valley Hockey Centre at the Olympic Park, the under 16 Boys’ were unbeaten in achieving 3rd place at the England Hockey National Schools Finals.
We started with our toughest pool game against Dean Close, which turned out to be a real battle. Their forwards were skilful and quick, and immediately caused us some problems, scoring the first goal after an excellent crossfield overhead. The response came from our first short corner with a powerful drag flick only just parried by their keeper and the rebound was fired home. Our next drag flick was perfectly executed, but back they came with a superb individual goal on the run with a flick high into our net, so 2-2.
Sorting out their overheads at half time gave us some more stability and our third and last short corner resulted in another wonderful flick to give us the lead. We started to gain more control and had to ride some tough tackling that went unpunished. However, with just 12 seconds to go, a great piece of skill along the byline was unfortunately deflected into our own net for them to earn a 3-3 draw.
Our next pool game was against the traditionally strong Repton who had a few very skillful players that we had to deal with by some excellent marking. Having gone into the lead in the first half, we had to withstand an onslaught from Repton that included four short corners in a short space of time. We held out and took more control in the second half that included our second goal to give us a cushion. Our biggest issue became the number of players we had available; with injuries and illness before the tournament and more injuries from the high intensity match against Dean Close, we ended up with just 11 outfield players for 10 places, so a 2-0 win was an excellent return.
Having recovered somewhat overnight, our final pool game was versus The Perse School who had three very good players but were weaker down their flanks. Good marking nullified their forward threats, but they defended well and restricted our chances in the first half in which we scored the solitary goal. The second half saw us in control but struggling to finish them off, including one short corner at which we hit both posts, so we finished with a 1-0 win.
Dean Close had beaten The Perse School 4-0 the previous day so it all came down to their match against Repton. They took an early lead and doubled it just before half time. However, Repton got one back to make it 2-1 and fairly tense. Dean Close sealed it just before the end with their third goal to win the pool on goal difference.
With just an hour’s break, and carrying a number of injuries, we played Stamford in the 3rd / 4th play-off. Not unsurprisingly we struggled a bit at the start and they went one ahead. However the Cranleigh squads showed excellent spirit to drag themselves back into the match and after drawing level, controlled the second half to run out deserved 3-1 winners and claim the bronze.
Richard Organ, Director of Hockey, was full of praise: “We would obviously have liked to have had another crack at Whitgift in the final, but the squad played with massive commitment and not insignificant degree of skill. Especially considering the injuries we had to deal with before and during the tournament, the whole squad came together brilliantly on the pitch and produced some excellent performances of which they should be very proud.”