Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Scotland U21 teams take third at EU Nations

"They did really well and there’s a good core of ability there, they just need more time, more tournaments and more training.” Barry Davidson, Scotland U21 Water Polo coach

Scotland’s Men’s and Ladies’ teams returned home with two third place finishes from the EU Nations U21 tournament in Manchester this weekend.

A draw against Wales on the final day secured third place for the Ladies, following a narrow defeat to the Czech Republic and a tougher loss to England. The Men came close to grabbing at least a draw against both Denmark and City of Manchester, but were soundly beaten by a top class English side. Barry Davidson, Scotland Water Polo U21 coach, said there were plenty of positives from the weekend despite the challenging ties, and he saw lots of potential in both sets of players.

“For a squad that’s only been together for around six or seven weeks they’ve done really well and there’s a good core of ability there, they just need more time and more tournaments and training,” said Davidson.

“After seeing the quality of opposition we know what we need to do now.”

Ian Melville, Senior Men’s team manager for Scotland, also travelled down with the team and he offered a similarly constructive review of the weekend.

Sotland U21 Mens team

“There really is a lot of good potential there, we have some excellent players coming through and throughout the weekend there were stand out performances in both defence and attack.

“The weekend was definitely more promising than results would suggest for me, and if we keep providing this sort of support to the players we will improve.”

The Ladies raised the curtain for the tournament against the Czech Republic, suffering defeat by a score of 8-14. But in the third period the team produced what Davidson said was perhaps their best quarter of the tournament and continued their positive play for the rest of the half, doing well to recover from a slack start.

The Men’s first match against Denmark was a 9-11 defeat, a result Davidson believed didn’t do his players justice and made worse by the loss of captain Ben Scott to injury midway through the first half. “It was actually quite disappointing we didn’t win that one. That was a winnable game. It was obviously made harder by losing Ben because he’s one of our key players," said Davidson. The captain was rushed to A&E after an elbow to the eye and had to get six stitches.

“But again, we had a young team out there who’re still getting used to the intensity but it was a decent performance, we just need to be better at converting.”

Scott had been playing well before his injury and despite the disappointment he was upbeat in review of the weekend as a whole.

“It was a really good tournament set up, great tournament for the team and with more training and development the squad could perform really well in years to come. Hopefully we can continue to keep the squad together and train a lot over the next few years and compete at this level every year.”

Scotland’s young squad came into this tournament knowing the matches against the Auld Enemy would be tough encounters. Davidson said: “The English squad has been together for two years, they were sixth at the Europeans, they qualified for the Worlds – they’re just so well drilled, they’re a really slick team.

“The girls did actually play really well in the second quarter of that match,” he continued, with that period in isolation only finishing 2-1 to the English. Scotland set out their stall to defend stoutly and hit their opponents on the counter attack, and at the end of the match England coach (and GB Girls U21 coach) Nick Hume said his team were asked some tough questions in that quarter as they couldn’t break down the Scottish defence.

In terms of the Men’s match against England, Davidson said the team’s struggles to perform for most of the game could be put down to the low morale following the Denmark defeat and the loss of their captain. Melville reflected that England were “just a bit stronger, faster and more skilful but the scoreline doesn’t reflect the effort put in. England’s defence was really solid, you could tell how experienced a unit they are.”

But the team did pick up their performance in a thrilling final match against City of Manchester, running them close in a 10-11 defeat. A goal was also chopped off near the end of the match and Melville said he a draw would’ve been a fair result but alas it wasn’t to be, despite Davidson labelling their display as “brilliant” and a good way to finish.

The Women brought their tournament to a close with a 10-10 draw against Wales, and by virtue of their far superior goal difference it enabled them to secure third place. Davidson said he thought the girls were good and fit enough to beat Wales however and that it was disappointing to only achieve a draw.

The Scots were 9-6 up in the third quarter and conceded two quick goals which moved the momentum in Wales’ direction. Wales went on to score four goals in four minutes and Davidson cited an unfortunate penalty miss that would’ve put Scotland 10-6 up as the turning point. But the team rallied from 10-9 down and deservedly levelled things up.

After the match, Ladies captain Hannah Edwards said: “It was a really enjoyable weekend of hard international water polo and great to see younger talent coming through.

“The squad as a whole worked well together in different aspects throughout each game and I’m excited to see the progress we can make in the next few years if the squad is allowed to continue at this age group which we all want to happen.

“Thanks also to Scottish Water Polo for allowing us to go and compete at this event.”