In front of a large crowd, the Sydney University Lions men’s side had a hard fought 13-13 draw with UNSW Wests Magpies which was enough for the Lions to gain top spot in Group B and advance directly to the semi-finals on Friday.
The scoreline was a true indication of a very tight tussle which saw the momentum between the cross-town rivals change constantly.
The Lions had the better of play early but a superb conversion rate in extra man play for UNSW Wests’ enabled them to fight back and eventually claim the lead for the first time early in the fourth quarter.
Trent Franklin and Lachaln Hollis spearheaded the University outfit with Daniel Lees again strong in goal, while Great Britain national captain Craig Figes and sharp shooter Stephan Cody starred for the Magpies.
Sydney University Lion’s 13 (Franklin 4, Hollis 3, Cargill 1, Nicholson 1, Thomas 1, Whalan 1, Kearns 1, Visch 1) drew UNSW Wests 13 (Campbell 2, Cody 2, Streets 2, W. Eames 2, C. Eames 2, Laws 1, Figes 1, O;Brien 1).
In the other game, Fremantle Mariners claimed the semi-final spot from Group A with the second draw of the evening. The 9-9 result with Victorian Tiger’s and a one goal differential meant the Western Australians topped Group A and progressed ahead of last year’s champions.
A late second quarter surge by Australian Sharks player Daniel Lawrence was the saviour for the Mariners with his four goals helping to fend off the fast finishing Tigers. US import Brian Alexander led the Tigers’ fight back with three of his own helping his team to claw its way back from a 7-4 deficit.
Men’s elimination finals draw (Thursday, May 5): (4) Victorian Tigers v (3) UNSW Wests Magpies, (5) Brisbane Barracudas v (6) KFC Queensland Breakers
On Tuesday the Sydney University Lions men’s team escaped a narrow finals encounter and a late controversial decision to defeat the Brisbane Barracudas 9-8 in their opening match of the National Water Polo League finals held at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
Scott Nicholson had put the second ranked Lions ahead with one minute and 16 seconds left on the clock, but a last ditch effort by Drew Gynther, later cancelled out by the referees, saw mass confusion on pool deck.
Brisbane coach Rob Edwards thought his side had equalised, but after the two officials converged the goal was disallowed and the Lions were declared the winners.
Two goals by veteran Alastair Visch had seen the Lions claw their way back from a 6-8 third quarter deficit and inspired performances by fellow stars Tom Whalan, Trent Franklin and Daniel Lees in goal cemented the comeback.
A strong counter attacking game by the Brisbane Barracudas had earlier shocked the Lions and American imports Jacob Young and goalkeeper Casey Regehr, along with Australian star Rhys Howden, shone throughout the match.
The Sydney University Lion’s women, ranked in sixth position coming into the finals, lost both games to Cronulla and Queensland and will play off for a semi-final berth on Wednesday night.
Sydney Uni Lion’s 9 (Waylan 3, Visch 2, Cargill 1, Franklin 1, Nicholson 1, Thomas 1) defeated Brisbane Barracudas 8 (R Howden 2, Young 1, Gynther 1, B Howden 1, Broome 1, Young 1, Giles 1).
Sydney Uni Lion’s 8 (Brightwell 4, Wikman 1, Hammond 1, Whitehorn 1) defeated by Cronulla Sharks 15 (Cabout 5, Zagame 4, O’Neill 1, Leissmann 1, Schmid 1, Rippon 1).
Sydney Uni Lion’s 7 (Gofers 5, Wikman 1, Whitehorn 1) defeated by Cronulla Sharks 13 (Knox 4, Smith 3, McCarthy 3, Hadley 1, Bertwhistle 1, Armit 1)