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Dorset claim second regional water polo title
DORSET water polo regional titles are like the proverbial London buses - you wait half-a-century for one and then two come along at once.
Just seven days after the county’s youngsters broke the 50-year duck with victory in the South West mixed under-12s tournament, the men’s under-19 squad doubled the gold tally with their own historic victory over Gloucestershire.
After winning silver in three of the past four years, Dorset finally got the better of their greatest regional rivals with an 8-7 victory in a thrilling under-19 championship decider at Millfield.
Dorset coach Rob Webber said: “After waiting 50 years, two gold medals in a week for Dorset is historic. The South West inter-counties are one of the toughest competitions in the country so this is a real mark of just how far the county has come.”
Webber, who joined his players in the pool for the victory celebration, added: “This side has been there or thereabouts for four years. It was the first Dorset team to take silver at the regional championships and the first to repeat that feat in successive championships.
“This gold is no more than the players and their club coaches deserve for all of the hard work.”
The contest was ferocious with the two sides repeatedly exchanging the lead and neither gaining more than a one-goal advantage at any stage.
An early exclusion foul against Gloucestershire saw Dorset take the lead but, within two minutes, the defending champions had struck twice to go 2-1 ahead.
In the closing seconds of the first quarter, Dorset drew a further exclusion following some excellent pit play and used their man advantage to level the scores at 2-2.
Neither side gained an advantage until deep into the second quarter. Again Dorset scored first from a counter-attack only to see Gloucestershire again regain the lead.
Dorset applied real pressure across the pool and drew yet another exclusion that was converted into a goal, taking the score to 4-4 at half-time.
At the start of the third quarter, Dorset turned the ball over and, after a string of accurate and rapid passes, scored an excellent goal to retake the lead.
Gloucestershire pressed hard and their attackers eventually drew Dorset into a penalty foul which the defending champions converted to level the scores.
As both coaches called for more effort from their teams, the game became increasingly physical leading to a string of minor fouls.
The broken play suited Dorset and they retook the lead midway through the quarter.
The next five minutes passed without a single goal but that belied the Herculean efforts of both sides as they fought to gain the upper hand. Dorset entered the final quarter with a 6-5 lead but Gloucestershire started fast and scored twice in quick succession to retake the lead.
The Dorset youngsters had been here before and that experience helped them rise to the challenge. In a stunning two-minute spell, they finally took a stranglehold on the game, scoring twice more for an 8-7 lead with four minutes left on the clock.
Dorset’s relentless pressure drew more and more fouls from their opponents, further strengthening their grip on the game to seal an historic win.
Dorset: Charles Elderfield, Mikey Kingsley, David Gallagher, Cianan Mann, Josh Marshall, Jackson Mullins, Charlie Roberts, Ali Rogers, Sam Webber, Elliot Wilks.