Spencer opened up the first lead at the top of SEMLA this season with a hard-fought 10-4 win over reigning champions Blues.
The Earlsfield club jumped out to a 4-0 lead in an electrifying first quarter to secure an advantage they would not relinquish despite Herculean efforts from Blues.
Both teams emerged with huge respect with the standard of commitment and skill levels high throughout an intense 80 minutes.
There was an absorbing face-off battle as Blues’ Matt Birkett took on Tom Roche for the vital possessions, as both teams were capable of keeping the ball for long periods.
Former Denison All-American attack man Eddie Vita lead the potent Spencer offensive unit with a Man of the Match performance.
“The game was all about the result, with the winners taking a big step toward the league title,” said co-captain Rob Holmes. “But there is a long way to go and we must be aware of complacency and continue to push on to improve our team game.
“We had been beating other teams by more than they had so we thought we had the edge. The defence was excellent and really stopped them getting many shots off. We dominated the ground balls and at the other end we scored some really good team goals. All in all a top performance”
Co-captain Tom Leahy added: “We really enjoyed the challenge of playing against an organised and very physical team.
“We have placed a lot of emphasis on this game over the last few weeks and we are really proud of the way our players reacted, smashing out the blocks and taking a commanding lead 1st quarter. We were disappointed to concede a couple of unsettled sloppy goals and a man down at the back, however for the most part we executed the game plan all over the field.”
Blues will lick their wounds and plan to unseat Spencer at the top in the return fixture, which on the final league Saturday of March 21.
Skipper Dave Cluney confirmed: “It’s a long season and I’m already looking forward to the rematch.”
He added: “There are plenty of positives and things we can learn from that game.
“Spencer were the better team and obviously deserved to win but, other than the 1st quarter, the rest of the game was relatively close and competitive. We didn’t look anywhere near as dangerous as Spencer when going forward, but I was impressed at how the guys reacted after what can only be described as a nightmare 1st quarter.
“We’ve got away with conceding a few goals against other teams but against a team like Spencer it’s very difficult to claw your way back from such a deficit. But we managed to pull ourselves together and at least made it competitive for the rest of the game.”
Purley emerged victorious in the other crucial match of the day with an 8-4 win over Welwyn Warriors. The victory lifts them to 6th place and plunges Bristol Bombers, who didn’t play, to the basement.
“It was great to get a first win under our belt,” said captain Dave Copple. “After a close loss to East Grinstead the week before it was important that we got some points on the board. The return of Mike Barrett to the midfield was important in keeping control of the game while Mat O’Leary made some great saves to keep Welwyn to a low score.
“We’ve been playing well all year and finally managed to turn form into a result.”
Welwyn skipper George Breese and his team were devastated by the loss. “It was pretty frustrating,” he added. “They executed their game plan well and we didn’t manage the same. Great play from our goalie and generally our D but some silly basic errors at times let us down. Some periods of good play but not enough, looking forward to next week however vs EG in what is always a good game.”
Reading Wildcats moved up to 3rd slot after slugging out a 6-4 win over Hillcroft with ex Colgate Raider Brendon McCann grabbing a hat-trick.
“It was a great game and I’m really proud of how my team played,” said captain Paul Milner. “Defensively we were very solid and possessed the ball well and created good scoring opportunities.
“We took an early lead going up by 2 at the start of the game and managed to keep our noses ahead throughout stretching it finally in the 4th to 6-3 with Hillcroft pulling one back at the end.
“They’re an excellent team and the game could have easily gone the other way.”
Hitchin burst back after a two week lay off with a 16-3 win over East Grinstead who fielded a weakened team.
“They seemed a bit light but, as expected, battled hard throughout,” said skipper Rhod Stanford who was able to call on a more balanced line-up than previous weeks.
Mike Halliwell lead the line with four goals and Steve McDermott and Stanford backed him up with hat-tricks.
“Jonny Harry, with 2, Adam Grey and Alan Croft also weighed in. We also had goals and assists from long poles with Tom Castle bagging his 1st this season to draw level with his brother Alex,” he added.
“Our defence again played well causing a lot of turnovers and playing fast lacrosse in transition.”
East Grinstead 3 – 16 Hitchin
Purley 8 – 4 Welwyn
Reading 6 – 4 Hillcroft
Blues 4 – 10 Spencer
Bristol Bombers v Blues
Hillcroft v Hampstead
Hitchin v Reading
Spencer v Purley