Women’s Super-Sixes Finals Day Review
East Grinstead won the Women’s Super-Sixes for the third time, but were made to fight all the way by Premier Division debutants Repton in a thrilling 4-3 final at the Copper Box Arena on Sunday.
East Grinstead have not lost in the format since Buckingham beat them 5-4 in the 2020 semi-finals to avenge a 10-2 thrashing in the 2019 final, a run which has seen them win nine games and draw one, a 0-0 draw against Slough in the opening 2022 Premier Division fixture.
Slough were also East Grinstead’s opponents in the first semi-final after qualifying in fourth place after a nervous wait at the end of the Premier Division qualifiers. For eight minutes the game again remained scoreless but a double whammy at the end of the first quarter scuppered any chances of a second successive goalless draw, Amy Thompson scoring in the ninth minute and Sophie Bray following up a minute later.
Slough trailed 3-0 at the interval after Ellie Rayer added a third goal in the 16th minute before Rayer struck again in the 28th minute and Chloe Brown completed the scoring with three minutes remaining as East Grinstead reached the final by a convincing 5-0 margin, all five goals coming from open play.
Repton had seen their debut in the top flight delayed by a year due to Covid-19, but qualified comfortably in second place, three points behind East Grinstead. Buckingham, the reigning champions from 2020, qualified in third place to face the debutants for the second time, their first-ever meeting ending in an enthralling 6-6 stalemate.
Buckingham battled throughout to maintain their grip on the trophy after being stunned by Claudia Swain’s second minute opener. Alex Naughalty equalised in the 14th minute before Sally Walton restored Repton’s lead with the first penalty corner conversion of the day three minutes later.
Swain scored again in the 28th minute, but in added on time at the end of the third quarter, Buckingham reduced the deficit to 3-2 courtesy of Lottie Porter’s penalty corner. Repton led 4-2 when Ellie Watton slotted home a penalty stroke, but Buckingham responded again with three minutes to play thanks to Abbie Brant, Walton needing to convert her second penalty corner of the game in the final minute to end Buckingham’s resistance.
Repton had narrowly lost 3-2 to East Grinstead in the first meeting at Whitgift School and the rematch was certainly not destined to disappoint.
Yet another trademark Walton penalty corner in the fifth minute gave Repton, not only the lead, but real hope that they could lift the title at the first attempt. With five minutes to play, those hopes were apparently in tatters as East Grinstead led 4-1, Rayer having turned the match around by the end of the first quarter with goals in the sixth and tenth minutes, as Repton trailed 2-1 going into the second quarter.
Courtney Hansford extended East Grinstead’s lead in the 19th minute to make the half time score 3-1 and Brown’s fourth goal in the 35th minute appeared to confirm that it was “game over”, however, Brown’s penalty stroke miss in the third quarter threatened to be more costly than originally thought as Repton displayed some resilience to fight back from 4-1 down to trail 4-3.
Walton’s penalty corner conversion in the 37th minute and Swain’s field goal a minute later put East Grinstead under pressure and that pressure became more intense in the final 7.7 seconds as Repton forced another penalty corner.
Walton couldn’t convert the penalty corner, but East Grinstead’s relief was short lived as a second penalty corner was awarded. The tension became even more unbearable when an East Grinstead defender broke from the line, causing the second penalty corner to be retaken, however, with one tenth of a second remaining, Walton couldn’t work her magic for a third time in the match and East Grinstead allowed themselves a celebratory team hug as national champions for the third time.