2008/9 Inter County

Dorset v Devon Inter-County Tournament 2009

Dorset v Devon Men's Water Polo May 2009

(Photo Credit: Steve Gallagher 01202 421743)

23 May 2009 - Dolphin Pool, Poole

For the first time in nearly 40 years Dorset hosted a county fixture which will now be an annual occurrence featuring juniors, ladies and senior men.

The junior match was played out in front of a large crowd. In a tense first quarter Dorset committed a series of fouls resulting in three exclusions with Devon capitalising on the player advantage and scoring twice. The young Dorset side, featuring a number of under-15 players, then fought back to draw level at 2-2 at the turnaround.

The second quarter started with Devon taking the lead just 20 seconds from the restart but Dorset equalised immediately afterwards from a powerful long-range effort. The match was deadlocked with a series of attacks and counter-attacks failing to breach either defence with both goalkeepers making excellent saves. On the stroke of the interval, Dorset scored following a long pass to an isolated player to end the first half 4-3 ahead. The third quarter saw both sides hitting the woodwork before Devon netted twice to go into the final session with a 5-4 advantage.

In the first attack of the final quarter Devon scored with just 20 seconds on the clock but then Dorset took control of the pool and replied with three unanswered goals to storm 7-6 in front with just two minutes left to play. The Dorset coach called a timeout with one minute on the clock, but instead of running down the time, the hosts shot and lost possession to Devon who levelled through a swift counterattack.

With just two seconds left Dorset then shot straight from the restart only to see the long-range effort tipped over the bar by the Devon keeper. The Dorset goalscorers were Connor Sleightholme (3), Chris Chamberlain (2), George Sparks and Anand Vaithinlingham.

Next in the pool were the ladies, with Dorset facing a well-respected Devon side. The first quarter was notable only for the number of early exclusions, with neither side getting the upper hand. The quarter ended 0-0.

Dorset then scored from the first attack of the second quarter only for Devon to be awarded a penalty just 30 seconds later. The Dorset keeper saved well and immediately set up a fast counter attack from which her side extended their lead to 2-0. Devon then staged a comeback, scoring twice in quick succession to level the match and threaten to overrun the home side. However, Dorset worked their way back into the game and finally regained their composure to go into half-time leading 3-2.

The third quarter was an altogether different game. Both sides suddenly found their stride and each scored within 40 seconds of the restart. The game flowed from end-to-end and the two defences wilted under the relentless pressure as the teams exchanged goals, scoring at a rate of a goal every 30 seconds. At the end of the third quarter, Dorset led 9-6.

Unsurprisingly the tempo dropped in the final quarter as the hosts tightened their grip on the game to protect their lead. The match became very physical with Dorset responding goal for goal against their opponents to run out 11-8 winners to chalk up their first ever victory over their Devon opponents.

On target for the home side were Leah Wistrand (4), Jana Kolarikova (2), Geraldine Day (2), Aimee Danan, Kirsty Heard and Vikki Robinson.

In contrast to the previous two games the men’s match was a much more one-sided affair. The strong Devon side raced into a 5-1 lead at the end of the first quarter and they continued their dominance in the second to stretch the advantage to 10-2.

As the pressure mounted further Dorset lost their composure and suffered five exclusions causing them to play over two minutes of the third quarter with just five men in the pool. Devon capitalised on this ill discipline by moving 15-3 ahead. Dorset rallied in the final session but their opponents kept up their superior firepower to claim a comfortable 23-8 victory.

The Dorset scoring honours went to Greg Rogers (2), Antonio Rhodes (2), Dan Kinsey, Mick Flaherty, Steve Randall and Kieran Reeson.

Bob Holman, retiring Dorset Water Polo Secretary, said: "This was a tremendous evening for Dorset. Just one year ago we were soundly beaten in all matches. We have shown that we can compete with a county with a very long water polo pedigree. This is testament to the effort and hard work of our players and their club coaches. In time, our juniors will form a strong senior side and with a fantastic pipeline of young talent developing, the future looks bright for the game in Dorset. I am very happy to be leaving water polo in the county in such a healthy state."

Click to view the photo gallery from the matches courtesy of Steve Gallagher (01202 421743)

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