WATER POLO: drop danger turned into trophy glory!


HEROIC Hucknall salvaged an unexpected trophy from the wreckage of a disappointing season in the British Water Polo League.

And as a result, they have been celebrating their biggest achievement in the national league since landing the Third Division title back in 2009.

Hucknall looked in danger of relegation back to Division Three after finishing next to bottom in the second tier with just one win and three points from seven matches.

Their sole success had come against bottom-of-the-table Leeds, and one of their defeats — against champions Sheffield — was by the whopping margin of 17-1.

However the format of the league means all the titles, promotions and relegations are not decided until a version of end-of-season play-offs.

The top five clubs in the division join the bottom three clubs of Division One to make up a new competition, called Championship One. And the bottom three clubs join the top clubs of Division Three to form Championship Two.

In each section, another seven games are played — and Hucknall ended up being crowned champions of Two after an unbeaten run of five wins and two draws.

In the first two weekends of action, they beat South Derbyshire 13-7, Tyldesley 11-10 and Birmingham 13-11, while drawing 12-12 with Exeter.

In the final weekend, held at Watford, a 16-12 win over Leeds guaranteed Hucknall a place in the top three, thus preserving their Second Division status and saving them from relegation.

And then they snatched the title in a dramatic last game against undefeated Scottish outfit Caledonia, who needed only one point to finish top themselves.

Hucknall’s goose looked cooked when they trailed 4-1 at the end of a tough first half, despite a goal from Dan Siddons. And it might have been worse without some terrific saves by goalkeeper/coach Tom Wall.

But Wall rallied his troops at half-time and they showed tremendous character to fight back, typified by Danny Evans, who stole possession in front of his own goal and drove the full length of the pool to convert a chance made by Stef Christophides. Ady Taylor also converted a top-corner thunderbolt and with Sam Joyce working tirelessly, the score was locked at 6-6 with less than four minutes remaining.

Hucknall’s momentous victory was sealed by former international Brett Perkins, who showed his class to net the last-ditch winner and complete an incredible hat-trick.

Even then, they had to survive a couple of time-outs, with Wall producing further heroics amid goalmouth scrambles. But the final whistle sealed a day to remember.