Great Britain’s Under 21 women’s team claimed silver at the 2019 ECA Canoe Polo European Championships, ending a run of narrowly missing out on a medal at major championships.
Written by Adam Bailey
Having finished fourth at both the most recent World and European Championships, a 7-4 victory over France in the semi-final on Saturday afternoon ensured Great Britain would finally get a moment to cherish on an international podium.
A final against Germany is always going to be hard-fought, but the U21 team more than held their own, especially in the opening minutes of the final when they were unlucky not to take the lead.
Caitlin Fox and Lucy Boyce both had shots blocked as Germany held firm against Great Britain’s early pressure. With just under a minute and a half left on the clock in the first-half, the deadlock was broken.
Annika Knoepfel’s goal from close-range was quickly followed into the net by Nina Hachenburg’s shot as Great Britain trailed 2-0 at half-time.
Germany added a third goal two minutes into the second-half, before Katie Howes put Great Britain onto the scoreboard from Lucy Boyce's pass.
Fox pulled Great Britain within one goal with four minutes, 30 seconds left, but as British paddlers piled forward, gaps started to open, and Germany scored their fourth with 40 seconds left to secure gold as Great Britain claimed silver.
Earlier in the day, hat-tricks from Amira Raoudi and Howes, and a goal from Fox secured Great Britain’s spot in the final with a 7-4 victory over France in the semi-final.
All three paddlers scored twice in the 7-2 win over Spain in the opening fixture of the day, with Kathryn Farley the other British athlete to score in the final group stage game.
The Under 21 Men finished 11th overall, ending their campaign with a 4-1 victory over Denmark.
After defeat to Spain and a 2-2 draw against Poland in the opening group games, the highest the U21 Men could finish was ninth, but a 5-4 defeat to Lithuania early on Saturday saw the British team having to settle for a 11/12th play-off with Denmark.
Two goals each from top scorers Chris Underwood and Santanam McCutcheon ensured it was a winning end to the Championships for this new-look team, with all but two of the World Championship team having moved out of the age group.
Considering this is a transition year for the U21 Men, this has been a promising Championships for the British team, with three hard-fought draws, two narrow defeats and convincing wins over the Czech Republic and Denmark.
Elsewhere, the Senior Women lost both of their group games on Saturday; their first a 2-1 defeat to Germany in their opening game of the day. Ginny Coyles scored for the 10th time at these Championships, but two goals from Germany turned the game on its head.
Coyles found the net again just a couple of hours later as the Senior Women played France in their final group game, but the Liverpool paddler’s goal wasn’t enough to get a result against a resolute French side.
After scoring in the final minute of the first-half to draw the score level, France picked up where they left off, scoring within the opening seconds of the restart.
The British team piled on the pressure; hitting the bar twice in the second-half and forcing a string of good saves from the French players. As they continued to push for an equaliser, France capitalised, adding a third goal inside the final 30 seconds.
Despite the two defeats, tomorrow the British team will face France again in the semi-finals (12:50 UK time).
The Senior Men’s only game of the day saw GB come from behind to beat Belgium 6-1 to close the gap on Italy at the top of the second group stage – with the two teams meeting tomorrow morning.
Great Britain responded well to going a goal down early on; producing a ruthless attacking and resilient defensive display. Ross Martin equalised for GB, before another well worked goal saw Great Britain take the lead just past the halfway stage in the opening period of 10 minutes through Jack Playford.
Playford then turned provider, finding Shivan McCutcheon, who took the ball well with a backhand cross the body catch, before shooting into the goal to give GB a 3-1 lead at half-time.
Although Belgium edged the possession in the second-half, Great Britain proved to be ruthless with the ball. James Mallon extended Great Britain's lead to 4-1 with just over five minutes left on the clock.
Shivan McCutcheon and Alex Lowthorpe completed the scoring for GB in the final minutes to secure a decisive 6-1 victory over Belgium.
The win closed the gaps on group leaders Italy to two points. A win against the Italians in their final group game tomorrow morning (08:30 UK Time) will put the British paddlers in a strong position for the semi-finals.
Full details of the 2019 ECA Canoe Polo European Championships are available here:
Official championships website: http://www.canoepoloportugal.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/canoepoloportugal/
Updates from the European Championships are also available on the British Canoeing live blog.