MANCHESTER, England, July 10. LANCASTER and Sheffield made history at this year's British National Water Polo Championships at the Manchester Aquatics Centre this weekend. Both clubs toasted sweet success after making successful defenses of their national titles. For Lancaster's men, who have also dominated the National League during the last decade, their success cemented a record-breaking fifth successive title, their seventh in the last nine years. And for Sheffield's women, a victory over Liverpool in a repeat of last year's showcase final meant a hat trick of consecutive national crowns.
Without a string of key players both clubs knew it was going to be very difficult to retain their titles. But some starring performances in the pool made sure they both pulled through stormy waters. Lancaster, without star players David Bush and Neil Bowers, still proved too good for Cheltenham, despite a brave effort from their opponents in an exciting final. A 15-12 victory made sure Lancaster were able to raise plenty of high fives, understandably delighting coach Duncan Holmes.
"It's a brilliant achievement to have won this title again. Five in a row is something special," said Holmes. "It gets harder and harder to win this competition because other teams improve, so to have won it without some of big name players is very rewarding. I thought Tom Curwen was excellent. His shooting was important for us this weekend, and Douggie Campbell and Colin Burgess worked so hard and got everyone going."
David Taylor led the way with four goals for Cheltenham, but four goals from Lancaster's leading scorer Curwen and hat tricks from Campbell and Scot Carpenter gave the defending champions victory.
Sheffield's women were pushed considerably closer in their rematch with Liverpool, but despite seeing their opponents win the third period 3-2, the South Yorkshire ladies held on for their memorable triumph, a 5-4 decision. Two goals from Great Britain international Laura Evans and further goals from Bernice Cowton, Elizabeth Bullivant and Larissa Davies did the damage. Forber GB internationals Jane White and the Dacre sisters, Helen and Kathryn, netted for Liverpool, as did captain Siobhan Winter.