Earlier this month, City of Newport water polo took part in two derby matches. First up for Newport was a trip to Cardiff Bay to play a Bristol & West First Division match against table-topping rivals Welsh Wanderers. Newport knew that this would be one of the toughest games that the team had played in many years. Welsh Wanderers, the only Welsh team currently playing in the British National League, having finished this season ranked fifteenth in the country, Wanderers is in essence a regional side. Drawing on the best club players in Wales, the club primarily exists to provide the principality’s leading players with a standard of competition that their local clubs cannot provide. Hence for Newport captain James Farror, who has also lead Welsh Wanderers on several occasions this year, and 18 year old Hugh Spencer, who regularly starts for the opposition, this was a somewhat bittersweet experience.
The match proved to be as difficult as Newport expected. With Wanderers fielding a side containing six senior Wales internationals and one former Great Britain star, and having won all of their previous five league games this season, progress proved difficult to come by for the visitors. Although Newport did well to finish the first quarter only 2-1 down, an extremely heavy press defence on Wanderers’ part combined with poor decision-making in attack resulted in the home side running away with the game. In the end, it was Wanderers who ran out comfortable 12-1 winners, with Farror scoring Newport’s solitary goal.
But despite the one-sided score line, Newport were not too disheartened by the defeat. With their most experienced and most creative player Chris Taylor unavailable for the match, Newport struggled to create many meaningful scoring opportunities and were continually caught on the counterattack. Nevertheless, Newport did manage to contain Wanderers to their smallest goal tally so far this season and, in reality, this figure could have been even lower had Newport’s decision-making in attack been better.
Newport’s second match was the quarterfinal of the President’s Cup. This competition runs very much like a normal cup competition, with the possibility of teams from different divisions being drawn against each other, but with the added twist that a handicap is decided by the committee for each match based the relative positions between the two teams within the league structure. The idea is to ensure that the matches remain competitive, with the lower ranking team usually starting with a head start.
Newport faced an uphill battle. Drawn at home against Aberdare based outfit Cwm Draig, who finished one from bottom in the league last year, the home side immediately found itself playing catch-up, with the visitors awarded a 15 goal head start. To begin with, however, it looked as if Newport were up to the task. Less than three minutes into the game, the home side raced into a 4-0 lead. Unfortunately, Newport couldn’t keep up their momentum and despite being comfortable all game ultimately just fell short the target, winning the match 24-11 but losing the fixture 24-26 as a result of the handicap. Goal scorers on the day were Farror (9), Taylor (8), Spencer (3), Gareth Campbell (2), and juniors Jack Tod (1) and Ollie Chilcott (1).