championship three qualifiers
Solihull, undefeated since returning to the British League at the beginning of last season, will be joined by Watford, Otter, Bridgefield and Grantham in Championship 3 after completion of the Division Four programme at Marlborough College, Wiltshire (26/27 October). The Midlanders cruised through, beating Bridgefield 17-8, including six goals by Jordan Elliot, Bedford 20-5 and Otter 17-11.
Grantham, starting the weekend handicapped by the deduction of four points earlier in the campaign, made sure of their place by defeating 2nd City Birmingham 14-8, Watford 21-10 (Ciaran Walshe bagged eight of the losers' goals) and then drawing 9-9 with Bridgefield.
The most dramatic match saw Otter beat Bridgefield 14-13. With four minutes to go, the score was 12-12 and that's how it remained until 31 seconds from the end when Nikolaos Roussos edged the London club into the lead. At 14 seconds, Alex Saunders equalised - only for Chris George to settle a thriller with just four seconds left on the clock.
Watford fielded no fewer than eight under-18s against 2nd City Birmingham and won 7-6 - after trailing 3-0 and 5-2. They went ahead for the first time just 38 seconds from the end thanks to a Yakov Sadovskii strike.
Above: Otter on the attack against Bedford. Photo: Trevor Hyde.
close calls for birmingham
Birmingham held on to top spot in Division Three at Marlborough College, Wiltshire (19/20 October) - although their two wins were only achieved by the narrowest of margins.
Evergreen ex-international Gary Tonks scored the goal with just two seconds remaining that earned a 13-12 victory over second-placed Manchester Hawks.
The first quarter had seen Manchester concede six majors and yet build a 5-1 lead. Manchester were still 9-5 ahead after two periods but a hat-trick in the third by Ben Cartwright helped Birmingham recover to snatch a 10-9 lead.
It was even all the way through in an exciting last quarter, the Hawks leading 12-11 with less than three minutes to play. Cartwright's fifth goal of the match then levelled and it was left to Tonks to hit the winner.
South Derbyshire may have finished in the bottom three but they gave Birmingham a real run for their money on day two.
Early on, Derby led 6-2. By the end of the second quarter, Birmingham had recovered and were 11-7 ahead. A narrow advantage was maintained for the rest of the match although their gritty opponents came back right at the end from 20-17 down to score twice more, leaving Birmingham with a breathless 20-19 win. Six-goal Mark Taylor led the Birmingham scoring, with Craig Mellors matching that tally for the losers.
Birmingham will be joined by Manchester Hawks, Leeds Sharks, Worthing and Carlisle in Championship 2, with Cambridge, University of Bristol and South Derby missing out.
Worthing, beaten 13-9 by Leeds, bounced back confidently with a 10-6 victory over Carlisle, featuring hat-tricks by Richard Hooper and Paul Phillpott.
Picture (by Trevor Hyde): Sam Routledge, of Carlisle.
defeat for cheltenham in late drama
Cheltenham paid the penalty for a late brutality exclusion when they went down to their first defeat of the season - 17-16 against Lancaster during the final Division One weekend of the season at Cardiff International Pool today (12/13 October).
A feisty game was tied at 11-11 at the end of the third period and 14-14 with just under three minutes remaining when the West Country side were reduced to six players. Lancaster converted the resulting penalty and, although Cheltenham managed to equalise again, Lancaster won through in the end.
Earlier, Cheltenham came from 12-9 behind in the last two and a half minutes to draw 12-12 with Manchester. Midway through the second quarter, Cheltenham led 8-6, but Manchester then staged a powerful recovery which seemed likely to give them a fifth straight win.
Cheltenham's salvage operation involved goals by Mike Thomas, Mark Banwell and - with 17 seconds remaining - Adam Legge.
Alex Parsonage led the Lancaster scoring with four in a 14-9 victory over Bristol. Then Caledonia picked up their first win in the top division, beating Penguin 10-6. Seven goals in the second quarter powered Portobello to a 17-6 win over Welsh Wanderers.
Day two at Cardiff saw the teams mainly concerned with securing best possible positions prior to the Super 5s. In the only match involving Super 5s qualifiers, Cheltenham defeated Portobello 14-6, with Jake Vincent and David Taylor both claiming hat-tricks.
Mark Thresher and Chris Taylor scored three apiece for Bristol, who beat Caledonia 16-8 and there were six goals from Addison Brown in Manchester's 14-8 win against Welsh Wanderers. Finally, bottom club Penguin went down 19-12 to Lancaster, for whom Parsonage bagged eight.
liddie salvages point for invicta
Sheffield's exciting 8-8 draw with Invicta provided one of the highlights of the Division Two weekend at Luton Sports Village (12/13 October).
The teams could hardly have been more even - the period scores were 2-2, 4-4 and 6-6. Sheffield moved into an 8-6 lead in the final quarter but were pegged back to 8-7 when Matt White scored with four minutes remaining. Time-outs by both sides produced no dividend and just 53 seconds remained when a Will Liddie goal gave Invicta a well deserved point.
Altogether, it was a disappointing weekend for Sheffield, the division's top team. They beat Exeter comfortably enough, 18-8, but lost for the first time in a tight affair against Croydon, who finished the stronger with goals by Will Jackson and David Payne to win 5-4.
Team Northumbria needed to beat Sutton & Cheam on day two to be certain of a Championship 1 slot. They saw a 9-4 lead reduced when Sutton scored four goals without reply but Josh Brown's sharp-shooting - he scored eight - eventually made the difference and secured victory by 14-12.
Croydon finished as runners-up, with Polytechnic's hat-trick of Luton wins moving them up to third. The Poly-Hucknall game ended five minutes early when a player suffered a serious injury requiring lengthy medical treatment by the pool staff. Poly led 12-9 at the time and it was agreed that this score should stand as the result.
Cheltenham Spartans overhauled York City at Walsall to finish top team in Division Five. The Spartans beat York (13-8), Whitgiftians (26-5) and then narrowly edged against Invicta Marlins (9-8). At the other end of the table, Basildon claimed their first British League wins - 11-10 against Dover and 13-10 against Sheffield Dolphins.
solihull winning charge continues
Solihull are already guaranteed a place in Championship 3 in the second half of the season after chalking up two more victories in Division Four at Walsall (5/6 October).
The Midlands club have now won all 16 matches since returning to the British League in September last year. Ealing were certainly no match for this predominantly young side - Phil Powell led the Solihull scoring with nine in a 25-12 romp.
Grantham provided much stiffer opposition on day two. However, from the start, Solihull always held a comfortable lead and eventually ran out winners by 14-10, including hat-tricks for Powell, Jordan Elliot and Tom Whiting. Ben Caulfield scored four for Grantham who, despite having points docked, could still make the top five.
There's still much to play for when remaining matches in this division are played at Marlborough College on 26/27 October.
Otter boosted their top five prospects with wins over Grantham (12-7) and Ealing (18-9). Star of the show was Brian Whitlock, who totalled 16 goals in these matches.
Watford, too, won their two games - 16-11 against Bridgefield and 19-9 against Bedford. Their chief marksman was Eoin Nolan, with a total of 11.
o'regan in form for manchester
Manchester retained the only 100 per cent record in Division One when they followed up an 11-8 victory over Lancaster at Ponds Forge by defeating Bristol 13-10.
Joe O'Regan, one of several members of GB's Olympic squad in action during a 32-match Sheffield programme (28/29 September), scored three in the first match and his powerful shooting produced another seven goals against Bristol.
Manchester stormed into a 7-1 lead in the first quarter but the rest of the game was evenly contested. For Bristol, there were three goals apiece for Sean Coles and Chris Taylor.
Cheltenham wasted no time in gaining dominance over Caledonia, racing into a 7-2 lead in the first quarter. Rob Parker (5) and Adam Legge (4) led their scoring in a 21-12 win. It ws all too easy for Portobello against struggling Penguin. They won 27-7 - and Spanish star Ivan Losa Zukita bagged 11 of the goals! Cheltenham defeated Welsh Wanderers 20-6.
The weekend leaves last season's Super 5s qualifiers again in the top five positions. Welsh Wanderers, with matches to come against Portobello, Caledonia and Manchester at Cardiff International Pool on 12/13 October, will have ambitions to upset the established order of things.
On day one at Sheffield, the Scottish derby between Caledonia and Portobello was refereed by a Cardiff-based German referee (Frank Ohme) and a Glasgow-based Hungarian referee (Mark Horvath), such is the international nature of the British League these days. Portobello built a 5-0 lead early on and eventually won 13-7.
Bristol outplayed Penguin 20-4 while Cheltenham scored eight goals in the first quarter on the way to a 19-8 victory over Welsh Wanderers.
Upset of the weekend was probably Team Northumbria's 10-9 victory over Invicta, one of the teams expected to challenge for a top five Championship 1 spot from Division Two. Northumbria led 5-3 at the halfway stage but trailed 9-7 midway through the final period. Invicta then missed a penalty - a fine save by James Kirkham - and that was the spark for a Northumbria recovery.
Neil Bowers' fourth goal, followed by a Brett Perkins penalty, brought Northumbria up to 9-9. Another Perkins penalty with just 45 seconds remaining gave Northumbria the points.
Sheffield comfortably maintained their 100 per cent record, beating Hucknall 19-6 and Northumbria 16-5. Invicta gave a much improved display against Croydon, winning 14-5. Sean King and Will Liddie both scored four.
It was a good weekend for some of the new clubs in Division Five. York City remain unbeaten at the top while Southampton notched two good wins - 12-9 against Old Whitgiftians and 15-12 against Invicta Marlins.
Celebrations, too, for Dover, who chalked up their first BWPL win - 19-11 over Whitgiftians - including nine goals from Marc Stephenson. Basildon had high hopes of a first League victory when they levelled at 8-8 early in the final quarter against York City. But York finished the stronger side and won 11-8.
abandonment drama at watford!
A few years ago, a feisty match in the men's former National League ended with four players from each side remaining in the water. At Watford (21 September), Leeds possibly created a record when they finished with just three! No fewer than NINE had been excluded after totting up three majors.
By then, play had been reduced to farcical proportions and, with little more than a minute remaining, the referees abandoned the game.
Birmingham won 18-10. Further victories over Carlisle (13-6) and Cambridge (also 13-6) retained their 100 per cent record after five games and means they are already guaranteed progress to Championship 2 in the second phase of the season.
The Midlands side includes a significant addition this season - Dave Edwards, the veteran ex-GB international who has moved on after several outstanding years with Cheltenham. He scored three of the goals in the Carlisle match, before picking up three majors in the last quarter!
There is still much to play for in the battle for top five places. Worthing, having lost their first two matches at Walsall, bounced back with a hat-trick of wins, including a first defeat of the campaign for Manchester Hawks. This match was tied at 9-9 until Worthing slotted three goals in the last 80 seconds of the third period. They went on to win 14-11, including six goals from Richard Hooper.
After the drama of day one, Leeds, to their credit, produced a controlled performance on day two to outplay Cambridge 17-8.
Their squad included Isaac Wass, 14 in July, whose two goals during the weekend make him one of the youngest marksmen in British League history!
lewis earns spartans a point
Two of the League's new teams, Cheltenham Spartans and Southampton, made their mark in a thrilling 11-11 draw on the opening weekend of the Division Five season at Walsall (14/15 September).
The youthful Spartans, Cheltenham's second string, trailed for much of the game but pulled up to 10-10 in the last quarter. There was just a minute to play when 17-year-old Jackson Mullins edged Southampton ahead again - only for Nathan Lewis to equalise with 28 seconds remaining.
Newcomers York City won both their games, with Nick Boaz scoring seven in a 13-8 defeat of Southampton.
Invicta Marlins were 9-8 down towards the end of the third period against Sheffield Dolphins before a final quarter hat-trick by Mark Cheetham turned the tables and earned a 12-9 victory.
last ditch win for lancaster
After trailing for much of the second half of an outstanding Division One match at Ponds Forge, Sheffield (8 September), Lancaster snatched a 13-12 victory over unlucky Portobello with a late goal by Tom Curwen.
Inspired by six-goal Ivan Losa-Zurita, Portobello had hit back from 5-4 down after two quarters to lead 9-8 at the end of the third. The Scots then built an 11-9 cushion only to see Lancaster level at 11-11. A nail-biting finale saw Portobello ahead 12-11 before Ryan Pinington equalised and Curwen slotted the winner - his fifth of the game.
Members of Great Britain's Olympic team made a big impact on day one at Ponds Forge, Sheffield today (7 September).
Joe O'Regan scored five times for Manchester in their 12-7 defeat of Portobello. The Scots had their chances but lacked the same sharpness in front of goal and were also thwarted on several occasions by GB goalkeeper Ed Scott.
With Rotherham no longer involved in the League, Adam Scholefield has helped give Division Two Sheffield a powerful look this season. He scored five in a runaway 24-4 victory over Sutton & Cheam. Joel Abbott bagged six and another ex-Rotherham forward, Richard Leighton, was also on the mark.
Exeter recovered from 8-6 down in the third period to beat Hucknall 19-13, including six goals from Andy Barry and five from Andy Margetts. Five of the Hucknall goals were scored by Lee Copley. On day two, Exeter drew 12-12 with Team Northumbria, who claimed a final equaliser 20 seconds from the end through Brett Perkins.
A strong second half performance earned Polytechnic a 10-8 victory over Invicta after the sides shared ten goals in the first two quarters. Hucknall recovered from 5-2 down against Croydon Amphibians to win 6-5.
Back in Division One, Caledonia's debut at the top level ended in a 15-7 loss to Lancaster. Curwen was again in dynamic form, netting eight times.
There was never more than a goal between Bristol and Cheltenham in a West Country derby that ended in a 5-5 draw. The last 12 minutes of tense action produced just one goal - the final equaliser for Bristol from John Hutchings.
Eight-goal Dan Laxton inspired Welsh Wanderers' 13-9 victory over Penguin.
Chris Taylor scored six for Bristol against his former club Welsh Wanderers in a 16-9 day two win. Cheltenham cruised past Penguin 20-8, with Rob Parker and new international recruit Jake Vincent both scoring four.
watford win thriller
London League rivals Otter and Watford made the second pitch at Ponds Forge look very small as they staged a cracking Division Four match (7 September).
Otter led 10-9 after two all-action quarters, but Watford, with seven-goal Norton in dynamic form, edged the second half to clinch a 20-18 win.
Bridgefield led Bedford 11-7 before their opponents fought back to trail 12-11 two minutes from the end. Pete Love's fourth goal with 22 seconds remaining gave Bridgefield a narrow 13-11 win.
Five goals from Love guaranteed Bridgefield's 19-12 success against Ealing on day two. Bridgefield led 13-12 midway through the last period but then rattled in six goals without reply in the final minutes.
Solihull, promoted from Championship 4, won their Midlands derby against 2nd City Birmingham 16-7. Grantham missed key man-up situations against Ealing but still won 10-9.
Manchester Hawks snatched an exciting 11-9 victory over Carlisle when the Division Three programme began at Walsall (7 September).