“Once again, the Bears held their own early on before falling behind against the run of play...”
Just as the club’s 1st XI had done on their maiden foray into Europe at the start of the month, the most senior side showed plenty of desire in the group games before being undone late on in their playoff game. Similarly, both squads were missing regulars who may have been able to turn the tide in their favour during the tournament, but left vowing to be more competitive on their return.
As has become customary in the Swansea-based Masters competition, the Bears found themselves drawn in a strong group with an early start and back-to-back games, setting them at something of a disadvantage from the off. Their cause was not helped by the delayed arrival of their goalkeeper and the officials’ desire to get the tournament underway on the stroke of 9.30am, which combined to give Cardiff a quick-fire three-goal lead despite the best efforts of Dave Morgan as emergency kicking back.
Although Penarth pulled a goal back through Tyrone Moore, his departure with injury was another blow to the Bears’ chances, and Cardiff rallied from under the cosh to add a couple more goals and make the final result a lopsided 5-1 in their favour.
After a short break, the Vale side was back in action and, with goalkeeper Andy Cox warmed up following his belated introduction to game one, held a heavily favoured Whitchurch scoreless at the interval, with centre backs Matt Birch and Craig Llewellyn heavily involved in the rearguard action.
The resistance could not hold, however, and despite the additional defensive efforts of Nick Pratt, Si Wilkinson and Freddy Thomas, Whitchurch managed to rack up four second half goals that again gave the final scoreline a misleading appearance. Penarth were not without their chances, with Dave Watkins, Marc Sawyer and Dave Kidby all threatening to reduce the arrears, but defeat left the Bears facing a play-off for fifth and sixth places after the remaining group games and semi-finals had been played.
The two-hour interval allowed for the intake of liquid refreshment, so it was somewhat ironic that Penarth ‘ran dry’ when it mattered most, with victory against a well-matched Llanishen, Caerphilly & Gwent ensemble a very real possibility. Once again, the Bears held their own early on before falling behind against the run of play, but looked favourites for the win when the impressive Andy Strong fired high into the net to bring the sides level. Chasing the victory, however, left Penarth exposed at the back, and two late goals for their combined opposition confirmed a third defeat of the day.
“Having already been hampered by late withdrawals and unavailability, losing the influential Tyrone Moore to an early injury made our task even harder - particularly given that many of the squad are nearer to 60 than the 40 that forms the baseline age for this tournament,” club chairman Pratt reflected, “The scores did not reflect the balance of our games, where 3-1 and 2-0 would probably have been more accurate results, and playing in a dead rubber playoff game clearly failed to provide enough motivation.
“With the tournament being won by what is ostensibly Bridgend’s full 2nd XI, we know that, to be competitive in future years, we need to ensure more 40-somethings can be enticed into the fold, whilst always hoping that Hockey Wales will give real consideration to an Over-50s competition!”
Updated 09:54 - 21 Jun 2017 by Craig Llewellyn