Jan 31, 2022
In the men’s tournament Wimbledon delivered a blistering exhibition of wall-to-wall hockey to blow away East Grinstead and clinch their maiden Men’s indoor national title on Super 6s Finals Day at the Copper Box Arena.
On Hockey’s Big Day In at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the three-time Finals Day participants emphatically banished their finish-line demons as Evan Kimber and Benjamin Francis’ hat-tricks helped them avenge their 2018 and 2020 semi-final heartache.
Francis, Duncan Scott, Liam Ansell and Kimber got the party started for the West Londoners as Wimbledon opened up a commanding 4-0 advantage at the interval.
That left East Grinstead – whose women’s team had won the title earlier in the day – with a miracle to muster but more goals from Francis, Kimber, Duncan Scott, Peter Scott and Rhys Smith after half-time propelled Wimbledon to victory in front of a buzzing Copper Box crowd.
East Grinstead, who finished fourth behind Wimbledon in their Premier Division group, held the scores at 0-0 for the majority of the first period before Francis broke the deadlock.
And it was after the first quarter when the Stratford floodgates really opened, with Scott, Ansell and Kimber all grabbing goals to thrill the travelling contingent.
The score at the halfway stage left East Grinstead with a mountain to climb if they were to emulate their women’s team – and it proved insurmountable as a similarly one-sided second half unfolded.
Francis and Kimber netted two more in the third quarter before Rhys Smith made it seven heaven at the start of the final phase.
East Grinstead chalked a consolation through Richard Lane but two more goals from the Scotts – Peter and Duncan – bolstered by Kimber and Francis completing their hat-tricks fired Wimbledon to an unforgettable first Super 6s title in style.
Earlier in the day, the Copper Box atmosphere was rapidly reaching fever pitch by the time Surbiton and East Grinstead took to the pitch for the first clash of the afternoon.
And roared on by a raucous away following behind the goal, it was East Grinstead who secured the first spot in the men’s final after a thrilling, shootout-fuelled encounter.
The Sussex side emerged the fastest from the traps as Daniel Faulkner fired home across goalkeeper Luke Taylor after just three minutes.
They soon doubled their advantage when Sam Hatherley netted but Surbiton, who beat Holcombe to be crowned men’s kings in 2020, showcased all their battling spirit when Zach Wallace intelligently cut the deficit.
East Grinstead responded almost immediately as Ben Mackey’s piledriver into the roof of the net re-established their two-goal cushion.
Gareth Furlong grabbed a quick-fire double to level the scores after the first break but just before half-time, Ross Stott netted East Grinstead’s fourth to edge them back in front at the interval.
Surbiton responded once more, however, when in-form Jamie Golden racked up his 21st goal of the Super 6s campaign to tee up a nerve-jangling, see-saw last 20 minutes under the lights.
Golden looked to have grabbed the dramatic clincher with just one minute left on the clock but battling East Grinstead just wouldn’t go away as Niall Stott levelled once more.
Surbiton almost snatched it right at the death when Golden – who was green-carded along with Faulkner and James Gall in an increasingly heated affair – was brilliantly denied by goalkeeper Richard Curtis.
That meant the game went to a dramatic shootout – and it was Grinstead goalkeeper Richard Curtis who proved the hero as his saves to deny David Goodfield and the usually-clinical Golden fired the south coast side into the final.
Wimbledon saw off Hampstead & Westminster in the day’s second men’s semi-final as Kimber and Francis grabbed yet more Finals Day goals.
The first half was a nip and tuck affair but Kimber’s strike at the end of the opening quarter proved enough to haul the 2020 semi-finalists in front.
Hampstead & Westminster – who finished above their opponents in second in the Premier Division table – did well to keep themselves in the contest up to half-time but just after the break, Wimbledon turned the screw.
Francis struck shortly into the third-quarter to open up daylight between the sides and give Hampstead a mountain to climb.
Teague Marcano pulled one back for Hampstead but when Ansell netted a fine third for his side after a free-flowing passing move, Wimbledon’s place in the final was secure – laying the foundations for that unforgettable display and their first ever indoor trophy.
In the women’s tournament Ellie Rayer helped fire East Grinstead to a memorable women’s Super 6s title as the Sussex side battled to a 4-3 victory over Repton at the Copper Box Arena.
After breezing past Slough 5-0 in the first game of a thrilling Finals Day, the recent two-time indoor finalists delivered another dazzling display as Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Rayer, Courtney Hansford and Chloe Brown grabbed the goals.
Sally Walton continued her prolific form on Hockey's Big Day In by opening the scoring for Repton but spearheaded by Rayer, East Grinstead turned the tables to etch their name onto the coveted domestic crown.
Repton came flying out of the blocks as Walton – who bagged a double in her team’s gripping semi-final triumph over reigning women’s champions Buckingham – fired them in front after just five minutes.
But East Grinstead did not take long to respond as Rayer, also buoyed by a brace in her team’s semi-final win against Slough, levelled just one minute later.
That handed the south coast side the momentum and they took full advantage at the end of the first quarter, with Rayer – part of the Team GB side who beat India to bronze at the Olympic Games this summer – flipping the game on its head before the break.
Repton kept themselves in the contest throughout the second period but when Hansford and Brown netted either side of half-time, Repton were left with a mountain to climb.
Walton scored her second – and fourth of Finals Day – to cut the deficit for Retford and when Claudia Swain struck with just two minutes remaining, the stage was set for a thrilling finale.
Goalkeeper Laura Myers brilliantly denied the Derbyshire side in the closing moments as East Grinstead clung on to complete a memorable afternoon at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Earlier in the day, Rayer’s double either side of half-time helped her side breeze past Slough – the joint-most successful indoor team in England – 5-0.
The 2020 semi-finalists found some of their most fluent form in the morning and after topping their Premier Division group with an impressive 22 points, wasted no time establishing their superiority.
Amy Thompson required just 14 minutes to break the deadlock before Sophie Bray doubled their advantage at the end of the first quarter.
And then it was Rayer’s turn to get in on the act and start her Finals Day party, netting just before half-time to open up a commanding advantage.
Rayer, 26, grabbed her second goal at the end of the third quarter before Brown saved the best until last with a stunning strike to seal it.
That result meant East Grinstead went one step further than their heartbreak two years ago while in the second game of the day, it was defending champions Buckingham – who beat them 5-4 in the 2020 semi-finals – who took to the pitch against Repton.
And it was Repton – who finished five points above Buckingham to come second in the Premier Division – who delivered the day’s standout women’s semi-final performance as they ended Buckingham’s Super 6s reign 5-3 in thrilling fashion.
Swain struck the first blow to haul Repton in front after just two minutes before Alex Naughalty’s leveller showcased all the grit and determination that made her side champions two years ago.
Repton rallied back into the contest, however, as Walton re-established their advantage on the cusp of half-time to cap a gripping first period.
The thrilling spectacle continued into the second half as Repton ace Svea Boker almost made it three but was denied by a Copper Box post.
They did eventually further stretch their advantage when Swain struck again but Buckingham, determined not to surrender their Super 6s crown, reeled them back in when Lottie Porter grabbed their second.
The helter-skelter affair took another twist when Eleanor Watton and Abbie Brant exchanged blows and despite a late Buckingham rally, Walton’s late penalty proved the final nail in their coffin.
That result booked that tantalising final against East Grinstead - and it was Rayer and her team who prevailed on a scintillating day of women’s hockey in London.