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Canford 1st XI girls celebrate Gold at Tier 2 National Hockey Finals
Post half term sport at Canford began in fine style with our senior girls’ hockey side winning the U18 Tier 2 National finals at the Olympic Park. A nail-biting match saw us secure a 2-1 victory over Norwich School in the very last play of the game.
When we exited the Tier 1 competition back in early October, following a surprise defeat on penalty strokes away at Taunton in Round 1, we set out our stall to win the Tier 2 competition. This is easier said than done, facing some strong opposition from schools across the country. However, the team has remained focused over the past six months and following victories over Downside, Bryanston, Wells Cathedral, Bromsgrove, Blundell’s and a 3-1 semi-final win against Queenswood at Lee Valley on 27th February, we faced Norwich the following day in the final.
A free scoring side, Norwich had scored 29 goals in their previous three outings and were strong on the counter attack. Sophie Saunders opened the scoring (her 33rd goal of a prolific season) before a hectic period prior to the break saw Norwich awarded two penalty flicks. The first was undoubtedly the correct decision, but the authoritative Hannah Cox expertly saved the resultant effort. However, almost immediately, a goalmouth scramble featuring two brilliant goal-line clearances by the excellent Abbie Rowsell ended with an adjudged infringement, and a second penalty stroke to handle in as many minutes. This time Norwich held their nerve, and the game was level at 1-1. In the second half the clock ticked on and, despite good opportunities, we couldn’t find a goal. The final minute approached and the impressive India Still fed Saunders on the left. Her persistent run and composure led to the award of our eighth penalty corner of the game, and one last chance to settle the final without the lottery of a penalty shootout. The final buzzer went, and the final play beckoned. A good set piece followed, with captain Martha Taylor delivering a quick drag from the top of the D. The Norwich keeper was beaten for pace and the ball found the bottom corner of the goal to secure a much deserved 2-1 win. Cue pandemonium and the realisation of accomplishing a National title triumph!
Director of Hockey Matt Collison echoed the feelings of all the coaching staff:
“This was an excellent all-round squad effort where all 15 pupils played their part. Individually and collectively, they made good decisions in key moments, and I am delighted for them. A very resilient bunch, they have shown great skill and character during the season. It is an excellent reward for much hard work and sacrifice, but also a springboard for next year’s campaign, where we aim to be finalists at Tier 1 level. That said, winning a National title is a very fine achievement, and a fitting end to the Canford careers of our three Upper Sixth players involved - Hannah Cox, Grace Leggett and Lydia Harvey. Thank you to the army of parents for their vociferous encouragement and support on a very memorable occasion.”