Royal rock Abbot to grab Devon crown
HOST club Devonport Royal ladies beat seven times winners Newton Abbot to claim the Devon County Cup in a tense and bad tempered game at the Life Centre.
Rachel Ward netted five times as Royal prevailed 8-4 over an experienced Newton side, who had former GB players in their line-up against coach Roger Bossom's fast-improving city outfit.
Bossom said: "This is another great step forward in the team's development.
"The younger squad members in particular played above their station and the rest of the girls stepped up to the mark against an experienced side.
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"I'm very proud of them."
Jodi le Page and exciting teenager Ward had put Royal into a 2-1 lead after Newton had opened the scoring.
Ward was quickly on target in the second quarter for 3-1 and Newton were dealt a further blow when their goalie was excluded. Ward took full advantage to complete her hat-trick before Laura Boatswain netted to give Devonport a 5-1 half-time lead.
Ward's speed and agility in the water continued to threaten the Newton net in the third quarter, and she further improved Royal's advantage further with two more goals.
Controversy reigned when another foul ended with a Newton Abbot player relegated to the changing room for a four-minute suspension with no substitution allowed.
Before play had a chance to resume, Newton's coach earned himself a red card, from a yellow previously awarded for vocally contesting the referee's decision.
Newton, still a player down, showed some of the fighting spirit which had previously given them their title wins, to score, leaving the tally at 7-2 going into the final phase.
The first few minutes of the final quarter were played with the same six on five situation and again Newton showed their worth netting their third goal of the match.
Devonport were now playing a tactical game and opted for a time-out called by Bossom, to focus on their defence rather than improving their their score.
The opposition's excluded player returned in time to see her side gain their final goal of the frenetic fixture.
But it proved too little too late for the former holders as Connie McGregor answered Abbot's fourth with Devonport's eighth to end the match and see the victorious Royal ladies home.