The first phase of the British Water Polo League Women’s Division 1 has come to an end after an action-packed weekend of action played out in two venues, London and Manchester. Manchester, Otter, Coventry, Liverpool and Sheffield are the five teams that have qualified for the Women’s Super 5s – a line-up that exactly mirrors the last Super 5s competition that was played in the 2019-2020 season. Hucknall, Tyldesley and Caledonia, who finished 6th, 7th and 8th respectively, will take on the top five teams from Division 2 to secure their place in the top league next season.
Manchester finish on top of the first phase with a 100% win record. On Saturday (13th November), they smashed Tyldesley 25-7 and Sheffield 26-8, while on Sunday, they saw off a depleted Liverpool side 15-9. The league’s top scorer, Izzy Howe, grabbed an impressive nine goals against Tyldesley and eight against Sheffield. The left-hander ends phase one with a formidable 33 goals to her name. Manchester Head Coach, Theo Nousios, will know his side are strong favourites to lift their 3rd successive Super 5s title this season, which would be the 5th in the club’s history.
After a shaky start to the season with the point deduction, Otter steadied the ship and have finished second in the first phase thanks to two solid wins this weekend against Coventry and Caledonia. The first, however, was anything but convincing. It took a last-gasp goal with just a single second to go on the clock from Rebecca Mulcahy to win their first game 9-8 against Coventry, having trailed 8-6 with five minutes to go. On the Sunday, eight goals from Otter’s top goal-scorer, Katy Cutler, and five for Izzy Dean, saw the London club breeze past the Scottish side, Caledonia. While Otter may not be favourites for the title in the new year, it would be foolish for any of the other teams to underestimate Nick Buller’s young and talented side.
Coventry end a decent first phase with a good showing in London. Despite the heart-breaking defeat to Otter, whereby they led by two goals in the last period, Ian Elliot’s side are well-worth their Super 5s place. A fairly comfortable 15-9 win Sunday saw Amy Berry rack up six goals, while the experienced England and GB international, Vicki Hawkins, converted four. Despite winning nine Division 1 titles before the creation of the BWPL, Coventry are still yet to win the Super 5s competition.
Liverpool Lizards secured their Super 5s place on Saturday with two hard-earned victories. The first, a 12-7 win over Sheffield, and the second an entertaining 21-15 defeat of local rivals, Tyldesley. The Lizard’s centre-forward, Molly Boniface-Ashton, was in excellent goal-scoring form as usual – converting four against Sheffield and seven against Tyldesley. There were also important contributions from Katie Hesketh (6) and Milly Wordley (7) in the games on Saturday. It will take a lot for the Lizards to win their first league title since 2016, but they can beat anyone on their day.
A much needed 17-8 victory over Tyldesley gave Sheffield a deserved fifth and final Super 5 spot. Chris Motley’s young developing side will enjoy the Super 5s challenge, but there is no doubt they will be the underdogs in the second half of the season. While Sheffield were overwhelmed by Manchester and Otter, they will feel they have an outside chance of getting a result at Coventry and Liverpool.
The bottom three, Hucknall, Tyldesley and Caledonia will all drop down to Championship 2 for the second half of the season, and will have to work hard to ensure they are not toppled by the likes of high-flying Exeter.
November 13, 2021
Manchester 25-7 Tyldesley (4-2, 7-4, 9-0, 5-1)
Liverpool Lizards 12-7 Sheffield Sharks (2-1, 4-2, 2-1, 4-3)
Otter 9-8 Coventry (2-0, 2-4, 2-2, 3-2)
Caledonia 7-14 Hucknall (3-3, 0-7, 2-1, 2-3)
Manchester 26-8 Sheffield Sharks (9-2, 5-2, 8-3, 4-1)
Liverpool 21-15 Tyldesley (5-3, 5-1, 7-5, 4-6)
November 14, 2021
Otter 22-7 Caledonia (5-2, 6-0, 2-2, 9-3)
Sheffield Sharks 17-8 Tyldesley (6-1, 6-2, 4-3, 1-2)
Manchester 15-9 Liverpool Lizards (3-3, 1-0, 5-2, 6-4)
Coventry 14-9 Hucknall (4-0, 3-4, 3-1, 4-4)
The format of the British League involves two phases whereby teams play multiple fixtures across several weekends in various locations around the UK.
In the first phase of the season, eight teams in the top division play each other once in an attempt to qualify for the ‘Super 5s’ competition in the second part of the season. As the name suggests, the top 5 ranked teams from the first half of the season progress to the Super 5s, while the bottom 3 teams from the first phase take on the top 5 teams from the division below in a promotion/relegation play-off.
The team that tops the Super 5s in Spring is then crowned British Champions.