REPORT: England Hockey Mixed Finals

Repton
The summer sun beamed down on the new turf at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, as eight sides from around the country descended to the capital for a weekend of Mixed Finals hockey action. 

Four teams were competing in both the Tier 2 (previously Plate) and Tier 1 (previously Trophy) Championships, respectively. Saturday was Semi-final day, the day that confirmed whether teams would be playing for gold or bronze on Sunday. 

The weekend got under way with the first of the Tier 2 Semi-finals between Dereham and Marlow. Things didn’t go to plan for the Norfolk based side as their goal keeper was delayed getting to the venue. An outfield player dutifully stepped up to fill the pads till the first choice keeper arrived mid-way through the first half - by this time Dereham found themselves a goal behind. 

The remainder of the first half swung one way and then the other as Dereham got back into the game and took a 2-1 lead. Marlow re-established their hold scoring two in as many minutes just before the break. Marlow comfortably saw out the second period, scoring a further two goals to take the match 5-2. 

It was North versus South in the second Tier 2 Semi-final as Formby faced Bristol Firebrands. The first half was shared a goal apiece with Formby taking the lead on 11 minutes through Josh Birtles before Firebrands’ number three levelled things up with their own field goal 4 minutes from the half time hooter.
The second half started with a penalty stoke for Formby, converted by Will Miles. It was a case of shutting down the opposition after this and holding on for a narrow 2-1 victory. 

Saturday afternoon was the turn of the Tier 1 teams. First up vying for a final spot was last year’s runners-up, Khalsa. They faced Sussex’s Horsham. Khalsa looked to be on their way to a successive final as they went into the half time interval two goals to the good. 

However, Horsham clearly had other ideas. Two goals from Sam Bugler brought the game level with just 20 minutes left to play. The old saying ‘you’re most vulnerable when you’ve just scored’ couldn’t be more true though, as just one minute later Khalsa raced up the other end to make it 3-2 in their favour. A nervy finish was in store, but Khalsa made sure they’d be going for gold thanks to a final minute penalty corner to seal a 4-2 win. 

The last game of the day was between City of Peterborough and Repton. The latter side proving too strong for their opposition as they dominated the first half, leading 3-0 at the break courtesy of two strikes from Simon Claris, either side of Hannah Davey’s field goal. 

The second half looked to be following in a similar fashion as an early Simon Claris goal, completing his hat trick, and a good finish from Martin Jones made the score line 5-0. 

Credit to City of Peterborough who never gave up and fought back to get on the scoresheet through Joe Finding. One final Repton goal ensured they’d be returning on Sunday with the chance to be crowned Mixed Finals champions. 

Sunday started with the Tier 2 3rd and 4th Place Play-off. The majority of the action coming in the second half, which Bristol Firebrands entered with a slender 1-0 lead. Two early goals extended their advantage to three. 

They went four ahead on 48 minutes before Derehams hard work and persistence paid off when Matt Turner turned in for a consolation goal. Firebrands secured the bronze medal with another penalty corner before full time, the match finishing 5-1. 

The first final of the weekend was played out between Marlow and Formby. It was hard to split the sides, both looked good one day previous in their respective Semi-finals. 

Formby star player Will Miles gave his side a two goal advantage at half time and it looked as though the match may be slipping away from Marlow. The Merseyside team made Marlow’s task even tougher, when they extended their lead with another early on in the second. 

A Tom Gray penalty corner on 45 minutes gave Marlow encouragement and reduced the deficit to two. The lead was then cut further and an exciting finish was in store when Kerri Smith scored with two minutes to go. 

Marlow even had the chance to equalise with the last action of the match, but sadly for them Tom Gray dragged his penalty corner just wide. Formby held on win the Tier 2 title in dramatic fashion.

The penultimate game was played during the hottest part of the weekend, not good news for Horsham who only had the one substitute available on Sunday. Despite this, they rallied to take a 1-0 lead - that man Sam Bugler scoring his third of the weekend. 

City of Peterborough equalised before the break to set up a big second half. Horsham suffered a couple of injuries, and with only one sub available this meant they were down to 10 players for the parts of the match. City of Peterborough capitalised to score three quick fire goals on 39, 41 and 45 minutes to put the game beyond reach. 

Horsham’s never say die attitude was rewarded with another goal, but it wasn’t enough with the game ending 4-2. 

The last game of the weekend was the big one. The Tier 1 Final. The chance to be crowned National Mixed Champions. 

The game was played between last year’s silver medallists Khalsa – looking to go one better this time out – and Repton, who had won the Tier 2 event last year and were looking to win again, only this time in the top category. 

Similar to their performance on Saturday, Repton started quickly and were out of sight after just 13 minutes, already three goals to the good. Khalsa showed good spirit and kept fighting till the very end, but it wasn’t to be as they had to settle for silver for the second year running. 

Another Simon Claris hat-trick put the icing on the cake for Repton who dominated for large parts to wrap up a 6-0 victory.