Surbiton had won 4-1 at Sugden Road in the last league match between the teams in March, in the sunshine, and once again, not only was the weather perfect for Surbiton, but their tactical plan worked once again.
Canterbury missed Scottish internationals, Nikki Kidd and Nikki Lloyd, but after an injury scare in the semi-final against Clifton, Mel Clewlow was passed fit to play.
Canterbury, who played in their change strip of red shirts, fell behind after just one minute and seventeen seconds, Surbiton’s penalty corner routine immediately paying dividends for the second time during the weekend, Emily Atkinson scoring from a rebound after Helen Fagg saved Chloe Strong’s initial shot, just as Jenna Woolven had done against Reading the day before.
Surbiton dominated possession throughout the game, but not for the first time this season, failed to capitalise on their possession. Canterbury’s Eliza Brett saw her shot narrowly miss the goal, but although Surbiton continued to attack, they still only led 1-0 at half time.
The scoreline remained 1-0 towards the end of the third quarter, before Rebecca Herbert ran at the Canterbury defence and was rewarded with a penalty corner. Once again, Surbiton’s forwards were alert to rebound possibilities, but this time, Georgie Twigg forced the initial save from Fagg, and it was Hollie Webb who doubled Surbiton’s advantage with her first goal for the club.
Four minutes later, in the 57th minute, Atkinson crossed from the right, Woolven perfectly positioned in the circle to score her third goal of the tournament, and Surbiton’s third goal of the match. Surbiton came close to adding a fourth goal, but Fagg worked hard in the Canterbury goal to ensure that the score remained 3-0.
Surbiton’s numerous supporters, including the Barmy Army, counted down to the final hooter, when Surbiton could celebrate an historic moment, becoming national league champions nine years after winning the Surrey Ladies League Premier Division.
Sarah Page was named as the Sky Player of the Match.
After the game, Twigg said “We are absolutely over the moon, we fought our hearts out against Reading yesterday and got the result and then came out today against Canterbury, a tough opposition and put in another good performance; we’re all absolutely thrilled. There are players that hadn’t been selected for this weekend but have played an integral part of the season, so it’s really been a whole squad effort and I’m really proud of all the girls.”
Surbiton captain, Sarah Haycroft held the Investec Women’s Hockey League Championship trophy aloft, with the players and management celebrating the triumph, and guaranteed European qualification.
Surbiton’s Sarah Haycroft celebrates with her team-mates as they lift the Investec Women’s Championships Trophy for the first time. Photo: England Hockey/ Ady Kerry.
The management team of Brett Garrard (who is also Director of Hockey at Surbiton Hockey Club) and Mark Atherton, will now set their sights on a cup and league double when Surbiton meet South Clubs’ Women’s Hockey League Division One runners-up, Hampstead & Westminster at Highfields Hockey Centre in Nottingham on 26 April (push back 3.30 pm). Supporters planning to travel to the cup final should note that entry will be £6 for adults and £3 for under 16s and over 65s.
In the third/ fourth place play-off, hosts, Reading finished third in emphatic style, beating Clifton 6-0, Becky Halle scoring a hat-trick, Alex Danson with a brace, and former Surbiton player, Jessica Brooker also getting on the scoresheet.
Next season, Surbiton will defend their title against two new teams in the IWHL Premier Division, as both Holcombe and Buckingham clinched their places in the top flight. Holcombe stormed to promotion with an 8-2 win over Brooklands Poynton, whilst Buckingham finally left the Conference West at the fourth attempt, beating Sutton Coldfield 2-0, a result which sees Sutton becoming only the second Premier Division team to be relegated via the Promotion Tournament, Ipswich having gone down in the initial tournament in 2009.
Chelmsford won 2-1 at Boots in the third and final relegation play-off match, to preserve their Conference status, and relegate both Barnes and Boots back to their regional leagues.
And in the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League, Brighton & Hove stayed up after a 4-3 win at Khalsa (Warks) meant that their opponents and Isca would play at regional league level in 2014-15.
Highlights of Surbiton’s league title triumph can be seen on Wednesday (16 April) at 7.30 pm on Sky Sports 3.
Other reports can be found at http://www.englandhockey.co.uk
On Peter Savage’s website at http://www.talkhockeyradio.co.uk/
At the Daily Telegraph website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/hockey/
The Daily Express website: http://www.express.co.uk/sport/othersport/470383/Georgie-Twigg-hails-Surbiton-team-mates
And the Get Surrey website: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk