The final Top 6 placings went down to the wire on an enthralling final weekend in Phase 1 before the winter break in the Vitality Women’s Premier Division.
University of Nottingham and Bowdon squeezed into the Top 6 on a nerve-jangling afternoon as they joined Surbiton, Reading, East Grinstead and Hampstead & Westminster.
University of Nottingham were indebted to Holly Nixon’s 64th minute penalty corner as the students ground out a 1-1 draw against Top 6 rivals Wimbledon, who drew for the fifth time this season.
UoN’s point was secured when they had gone down to 10 players following Jordan Homann’s yellow card two minutes previously. Fiona Burnet had given Wimbledon a 16th minute lead.
UoN’s late goal meant that Bowdon also qualified in the Top 6 as they finished sixth following a 1-1 draw at Hampstead & Westminster.
Madi Radcliffe, with her fourth strike in as many matches, gave H&W the lead in the 41st minute before Bowdon claimed a vital point – and their sixth draw from 11 games – when Alia Jacques netted from a 59th minute corner.
University of Birmingham were also relying on results going their way. They duly beat Isca & University of Exeter 2-0 with their first clean sheet but finished one point behind Bowdon in seventh.
League leaders Surbiton won their 10th match in a row with a 4-1 win over out-of-form Clifton Robinsons.
Holly Munro opened the scoring for the visitors in the 16th minute before a second-half surge from Surbiton, with Sarah Evans bagging a double to keep their unbeaten record since March 2020 over the Bristol side.
Champions East Grinstead bagged their third away win in succession with a 2-1 victory at Loughborough Students.
Chloe Brown and Biba Mills netted second-half penalty strokes, cancelling out Beth Alexander’s opener for the students, their first goal scored at home against East Grinstead.
Reading racked up their sixth win in their last seven matches following a 2-1 win over Beeston.
Lizzie Gittens and Shona McCallin scored inside 25 minutes, with Jane Kilpatrick netting a late consolation. Six of Beeston’s eight defeats have been settled by a single goal.
*Stats provided by Colin Pike
Sam Ward netted a first-half hat-trick to finish on 25 goals in Phase 1 and help keep Old Georgians top of the table in the Men’s Premier Division.
Old Georgians finished ahead of rivals Surbiton on goal difference after a 6-2 win over Southgate.
Alan Forsyth also struck a double as the GB duo both scored for the seventh game in succession.
Surbiton extended their winning streak to eight courtesy of a 4-1 on the road at East Grinstead.
Struan Walker scored for the fifth game running during a period of four goals in eight first-half minutes at Saint Hill, which included Jack Webb netting for the hosts to pull the deficit to 2-1.
But Alex Williams, a minute later, then a second-half Gareth Furlong penalty corner secured the points.
Hampstead & Wesminster’s Matt Guise-Brown and Holcombe’s Tim Guise-Brown both scored twice in the same match as the latter came out on top in a 5-1 away victory for the Kent side to keep them third.
Holcombe finished Phase 1 with a fourth successive win and seventh in the last eight matches. There was a goal for the returning Nick Bandurak while Phil Roper scored for the fourth game running.
There was heartbreak in the Welsh capital as Cardiff & Met lost their fifth game in a row.
Cardiff & Met were 3-1 up against Wimbledon before Duncan Scott, Sam Hooper and a second from Ben Francis in the 60th minute secured three points and the best defensive away record (conceding just four on the road).
Reading finished Phase 1 with a seven-game losing streak as Beeston won 2-1 to end a five-game run without a point. Henry Croft and Gareth Griffiths secured Beeston’s first win at Reading since March 2018.
Meanwhile, Oxted recorded their first away win since the opening day of the season after Owen Williamson scored a brace in a 4-1 win at University of Nottingham.
The students lost for the 11th time this season and will hope for a rapid turnaround in the second half of the season.