otter crowned champions!
Otter won their first-ever British League title by defeating reigning champions City of Manchester 16-14 in a pulsating Super 5s decider at the Surrey University pool, Guildford (26 January).
The London club led 5-4 and then 10-6 at the end of the first two quarters and were only briefly under serious pressure when Manchester fought back to trail 12-11 towards the end of the third.
Otter captain Lex Higlett, who finished the match with seven goals (and is pictured above holding the trophy), then struck a decisive blow. With 30 seconds of Otter possession almost completed and the defence anticipating the ball would be dumped, the Australian whipped a fine shot into the net from an acute angle.
Another Otter goal early in the final quarter stretched the lead to 14-11, effectively ending the Manchester challenge.
Victory clinched a special double for the Otter club - their Lutra team won Championship 1 (see below).
"This season, we have dropped a few points but always seem to have pulled out our best form in the big games," said Lex. "But this has been a very competitive league, with any of four teams capable of finishing on top."
Lex paid tribute to the work of coach Nick Buller. "We now have some really good juniors coming through thanks to the beacon programme at Crystal Palace and they push us hard in training."
The trophy and medals were presented by British League life member and former men's National League treasurer Dr Mike Clark.
In the final match of the season, Coventry drew for the third time in their eight games - 13-13 against Liverpool Lizards. The Midlands side levelled through Elizabeth Palmer with just five seconds remaining.
manchester take narrow lead into final weekend
Manchester lead the Super 5s by a single point going into the final weekend of the season at the University of Surrey pool, Guildford, on 25/26 January, knowing that the re-match with second-placed Otter on the last afternoon could yet turn into a title shoot-out. The sides drew 10-10 earlier in the campaign.
Liverpool Lizards' prospects suffered a major setback at Lancaster (7/8 'December) with double defeat - 10-7 to Otter and then 14-10 to Manchester, for whom Ella Chadderton (4) and Polly Egan (3) were the main scorers.
Otter, however, will rue the point they dropped to Coventry in a 6-6 draw. It could have been worse - it was not until a minute from the end that Fran Leighton equalised for the London side after Coventry, led by four-goal Vicki Hawkins, had been 3-1 up and then 6-4 at the beginning of the last quarter.
Ella Chadderton scored seven for Manchester in their 17-4 defeat of Caledonia.
Congratulations to Hucknall (photo above), who won the women's Championship 2 title at Walsall (7/8 December) with victories in their top four matches - against Liverpool Water Beatles (8-3), Tyldesley (8-4) and Southampton (6-3). They will be joined by the Water Beatles and Tyldesley in Division Two at the start of next season.
Players are: Lynsey Wilson, Jemma Senczyszyn, Vicki Taylor, Cass Mercer, Lauren Perkins, Ripley Fidler, Laura Woodfield, Cara Saunders, Stacie Roe, Rachael Endy, Simone Whyley. Absent: Helen Reader, Kiyoko Naish, Rachael O'Keefe, Rosie Wathall-Chapman, Willow Stacey, Laura Woodfield, Fidler Stacie.
undefeated otter win title
Otter Lutra (above) are the new winners of Championship 1, chalking up three wins at Grantham (30 November/1 December) to finish with a 100 per cent record. They will be joined in Division One at the start of next season by Sheffield Sharks and Leeds Sharks.
Welsh Wanderers, who began the Grantham weekend with wins over Penguin Emperors (11-6) and Liverpool Liver Birds (14-5) needed to take a point from their final match against Sheffield Sharks to overhaul Leeds. They never quite recovered from a shaky start, which saw Sheffield take a 3-0 lead. In the end, six goals from Bernice Cowton and four from Linzi Gaywood ensured a 14-10 victory for the Sharks.
Otter had to work hard for their points. They beat Manchester Comets 7-4 - hat-tricks from Holly Campbell and Hannah Patchett - Leeds 9-6 and had to rely on a last quarter hat-trick from Hannah Patchett to clinch a 6-5 win over Mid Sussex Marlins, who had led 5-3 with four minutes remaining.
Marlins were involved in another nail-biting finish against Manchester Comets. The Sussex team were 5-1 up towards the end of the second quarter and 10-8 in the last before two goals by Isobel Howe snatched a 10-10 draw for the Comets. Penguin Emperors waited until their last match to notch a first win - 10-9 over Liverpool Liver Birds. Sonia Spearing's goal nine seconds from the end settled it after Nichola Ross scored five for Liverpool.
Otter players, back row, left to right: Emily Grant, Hannah Patchett, Ellie Danielson, Lindsey Williams, Rebecca Mulcahy, Isabelle (Izzy) Dean. Front: Marie Mulligan, Catherine Freeman, Jennifer Darnborough, Juliet Edey, Mhairi Nurthen and Holly Campbell.
emma's late goals dent liverpool progress
Liverpool Lizards lost their 100 per cent record in Super 5s when Coventry staged a dramatic recovery to draw 10-10 at Hucknall (16/17 November).
At one stage in the final quarter, Liverpool led 10-7. But goals by Claire Walmsley and Vicki Hawkins sparked the recovery and eventually Emma Marshall claimed the Coventry equaliser - with just eight seconds remaining on the clock.
Liverpool, bidding to halt Manchester's domination of women's Super 5s, still hold a useful two-point lead ahead of Otter and Manchester at the top of the table. Fiona McCann claimed another nine goals in their 26-8 hammering of Caledonia.
Manchester beat Coventry 8-5 but, like Liverpool, they dropped a point in a 10-10 draw, this time with Otter. Otter held a slender lead until Lucy Aspinall netted the final Manchester equaliser with less than three minutes remaining.
In Championship 1, Otter Lutra beat Sheffield Sharks 9-5 in a top-of-the-table clash and hold the only 100 per cent record after four games.
cara's vital late strike
Top four qualifiers in Championship 2 are Southampton, Liverpool Water Beatles, Hucknall and Tyldesley. Birmingham just missed out - after a dramatic 10-10 draw with Hucknall at Basingstoke (16/17 November).
The score was 7-7 with four minutes to go. Birmingham then proceeded to take a single-goal lead three times - the last when Sam Tubb scored with just four seconds remaining. Even that, wasn't enough. Hucknall somehow contrived to sneak a final equaliser one second from the end, thanks to Cara Saunders.
Forget the world-famous Three Graces! In Tyldesley, they're proud of the Two Graces, namely 17-year-old Grace Morley, and Grace Rowland, just 15. Grace Morley scored 12 and her younger team mate nine in a 27-13 blitz against Devonport. The girls were at it again in a 22-8 defeat of Manchester Barracudas, claiming six apiece.
Provisional fixtures for the division's finale weekend are now published on the results page.
fiona in form as liverpool dominate
Olympian Fiona McCann led Liverpool Lizards' impressive start to the Super 5s campaign at Lancaster (2/3 November), scoring a hat-trick in the 11-7 defeat of Manchester and then eight against Otter, who were beaten 19-17.
Manchester, champions for the past two years, were level at 5-5 against Liverpool five minutes into the third period, but Liverpool then went clear to strike a vital first blow in the title race.
Coventry, the top team after phase one, opened with a 12-8 win against Caledonia, including five goals by Vicki Hawkins. But the Midlanders' unbeaten record disappeared in their second match when Otter won 6-4. Fran Leighton and Lex Higlett each scored two goals for the London club.
league president scores vital goal!
Sheffield's former international Pippa Jones claimed a unique distinction in her club's Championship 1 victory over Leeds Sharks at Lancaster (2/3 November) - the first President of the British League to feature among the scorers!
Her goal was important, too. It came just two seconds from the end of the third period and put her team 8-6 ahead in what had been an evenly fought Yorkshire derby. Eventually, Sheffield won 9-7. They also beat Mid Sussex Marlins 6-4.
The only other team to take maximum points from their two matches were Otter Lutra. They beat Penguin 8-3 and were just too strong for Welsh Wanderers, winning 6-5, including four goals by Hannah Patchett.
In Championship 2 at Grantham, Hucknall were the only 100 per cent team, defeating Tyldesley 12-7 and Manchester Barracudas 18-5. This division has 11 teams split into two groups. In the second section, Southampton and Liverpool Liver Birds set the pace with five points from three matches.