Dorset end 50-year wait for South West regional inter-county tournament

DORSET’S 12 and under water polo players dramatically ended a 50-year wait by winning a South West regional inter-county tournament – and did it in style with two thumping victories.

The mixed team, which featured 11 players drawn from five Dorset clubs, firstly thrashed Devon 26-5 before destroying Gloucestershire 27–2.

Coach Fred Fowler said: “It was a fantastic day for Dorset water polo.

“We had a great bunch of children from five of our clubs working together with great spirit.”

Christchurch Seagulls coach Rob Webber said: “The result was fantastic and was Dorset's first win in the South West Inter-County Championships.

“Frankly, Dorset wiped the floor with their opponents.”

Devon probably had more reason to be confident, having beaten Dorset 15-2 last year and also convincingly beaten Gloucestershire in the opening match of the competition this time.

But Dorset – anxious to avoid a recurrence of the 2011 result – had held a series of special training sessions ahead of the Exeter tournament.

Their efforts paid off from the start and Dorset were 9-1 ahead after the first quarter against Devon.

“The strength of teams at younger age group tournaments is largely unknown due to many new players taking up the sport so that the early scoreline was a pleasant surprise,” said Fowler.

“It was clear from the start that the Dorset players were not only stronger swimmers but had the skills and tactical awareness to outclass Devon.

“That was something that has been missing from previous teams from the county in that age group.”

Dorset were just as dominant against Gloucestershire, despite some resistance offered by their goalkeeper.

Fowler rotated his players throughout the tournament with all the substitutes contributing to the victories.

Blandford ’s Will Cleal was Dorset’s and the tournament’s top goalscorer and was named player of the tournament.

“But the entire team played their part with most players ending up on the scoresheet,” said Fowler.

He added: “It has taken us eight years of hard work in the county since our junior league was formed and some narrow misses to finally clinch our first tournament win, which I’m sure will be the first of many.

“It is particularly rewarding that five clubs spread across the county contributed players to the team and shows that our development work is making a difference. It was a real pleasure to coach this group of youngsters.

Dorset 12 & under mixed team: 1 Sarah Rogers (Christchurch & New Milton Seagulls), 2 Rupert Bowerman (Blandford), 3 Katy Cutler (Bournemouth SC/Salisbury), 4 Will Cleal (Blandford), 5 Izzy Davies (Bournemouth SC/Salisbury), 6 Max Denton- Smith (Blandford), 7 Matt Folland (Christchurch & New Milton Seagulls), 8 Charles Kendall (Bridport), 9 Edward Stephenson (Christchurch & New Milton Seagulls), 10 Harry Wheeler (West Dorset), 11 Nathan Wickens (Christchurch & New Milton Seagulls).

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