The second weekend of the national league calendar saw poly take on Sutton & Cheam, Solihull and Penguin. This provided a qualification opportunity for the top tier and a chance to transition from the awkward first weekend of the season into a division 1 ready team.
Poly 11-10 Sutton & Cheam
This was something of an awkward match for Polytechnic. On paper the win should have been a straightforward one, with S&C making up the bottom end of the table and struggling for wins. Poly entered the water with a sense of lethargy and quickly found ourselves 0-2 down. The defender lacked finesse, giving away 5 majors in quarter 1. Solid man down coupled with smart keeping from Matteo Gaspari meant Poly were not punished as heavily as we might have been. Finding a degree of focus, Poly dragged the game to parity at 2-2 by the end of quarter one thanks to two goals from Chris Icely. Quarters 2 & 3 saw Poly demonstrating signs of improvement, with goals from Sergio Schiaffino, Jeremy Johnson, Luke Jones, Andre Ferdinand and Chris Icely taking Poly into a 10-7 lead by quarter 3's close. This was a game that Poly never truly controlled however; once three goals up there wasan opportunity to stretch this game beyond reach, but caution meant Poly tried to defend a lead prematurely. This is never a good strategy in polo and the price was almost a heavy one. The game began to loosen and 3 unanswered goals by S&C levelled the match at 10 apiece, with the spectre of a wasteful draw looming. This was a position Poly should never have found themselves in and bemoans a current sense of inhibition in the side, too often playing intellectually rather than instinctively. Some fine play gained Poly a last minute penalty and with only 23 seconds on the clock, Andre Ferdinand ripped in his second penalty of the match to let Poly off the hook.
Polytechnic 8 - 9 Solihull
Poly and Solihull were both unbeaten at the start of this match and it is clear why. The standard of polo in this game from both sides was clearly raised, with considered and structured play. Unfortunately Poly lost Sergio Schiaffino early in quarter one, the reason for which remains mysterious, with neither referee able to clarify which gave the wrap and why. The game was a series of counterpunches, so much so that Poly suffered a second loss - Fernando Galan having his eye split by a Solihull fist forcing him out of the game. The offending Solihull player was wrapped, but bizarrely not for brutality, a decision which would clearly have changed the game. A brief 7-5 lead to Poly was the only daylight in the match and ultimately Poly lost the encounter, with a last minute goal taking a wicked deflection off a defensive block and wrong-footing the once again excellent Matteo Gaspari in goal. We will of course play Solihull again and on the evidence of this encounter, there is no reason Poly could not be on the opposite end of this result.
Polytechnic 12 - 7 Penguin
The derby. A rousing team speech from Livio gave Poly a clear dictum for this match…”this is not a match, this is war”. Armed with such intent, Poly started the game vigorously, with a 3-1 lead by the end of quarter one. Defensive work remained tight and clean, led by the imperious Spanish brethren of Miguel and Carlos Ardid. Attack is where Poly played our best game of the season so far. Newcomer Federico Carucci slotting 3 goals in the first two quarters and lefty Ben Van Doren chucking in one of his own. Going through the gears and tightening the noose, Poly showed our strength and depth of squad, with solid contributions all round. Chris Icely had a particularly stellar game, with 5 goals from in and around the CF/2nd CF area. Ben "Two Brooms" Robra played his first game of the season, with a fine display in goal for quarters 3 & 4.
A narrow defeat to Solihull with some good waterpolo saw a successful weekend for Poly, with guaranteed qualification for phase 2 of the season. Of course, this is where the competition really begins and Poly will need to iron out the creases if we are to present a genuinely Division 1 ready team. The signs are good, but now more than ever, commitment and discipline is required to climb back into the position Poly expects to be. Special mentions go to Chris Icely for his fine performance in front of goal, Andre Ferdinand for his faultless penalty taking (3 from 3), the Ardid brothers for excellent defensive work and Ben Robra for his performance in goal. Finally, Fernando Galan showed what it means to be a team, by staying with the squad all weekend, despite being rendered lame on Saturday afternoon. Can you hear the drums Fernando?
- Jeremy Johnson