Team England pulled off a pair of victories over Germany and Wales in back-to-back fixtures as preparations continue ahead of the 2018 Men’s World Championships.
A 7-6 comeback win against Germany was followed up by a 15-5 defeat of Wales on a warm day at Platt Lane Sports Complex in Manchester not ideal for consecutive fixtures.
England faced-off first against a Germany side now being headed up by former England Head Coach Matt Bagley.
And it was England who were initially quickest out of the blocks, Josh Sherry-Brennan with a nice step to beat his man and opening the scoring.
However, as the quarter went on, Germany grew ever stronger, levelling the game off their first settled possession and then winning a scrappy ball in the midfield from the resulting face to go ahead.
Q1 was very much a frantic affair from England with multiple turnovers and wasted possessions while the defence struggled to find a cohesive shape and their opponents capitalised.
Two further goals at the end of the quarter, including a fortunate effort right on the buzzer that hit the pipe and deflected in off the goalie, either side of a trademark Jak Wawrzyniak long-pole goal saw the Germans take a 4-2 lead.
After the hectic opening period, the boys managed to calm the game down in the second, subduing the opposition’s attack but still proving wasteful with the ball.
Indeed, the only score of the quarter would come from a quick break with some fine defensive work from Sam Patterson to make an interception and break up field to find Nick Watson on the crease to finish.
After the break, England survived an early man down play, then capitalising by levelling the game up through Ryan Hunns and it seemed the game may have been moving in England’s favour as they held some longer spells on the ball.
However, they failed to add to the tally for the rest of the quarter and were instead dealt a real sucker punch as the game approached ¾ time.
The England defence was caught napping as they took time looking for an option on the clear and a good double stole possession, ending in Germany retaking the lead 4-5.
And when a penalty was called against Andrew Baxter for an infringement on the goal scorer, the Germans had an EMO to finish the quarter which they duly took to go in 6-4 up with Q4 to play.
A final quarter deficit has become familiar territory for Team England in recent times, coming from behind three times in the recent series in Israel, and the resilient nature of the team was needed once again.
One goal was pulled back immediately in search of turning it around, Pete Hayes reducing the deficit to one, but wasted attacks and struggles in transition gave Germany long spells of possession and Will Baxter proved strong between the pipes to deny Germany on more than one occasion.
And off the back of a Baxter stop, England finally put together a more composed possession, looking for the right shot before Ryan Sweetman barged his way through his defender to level the scores.
Finally, in a style so characteristic of this group, holding possession with 3:00 to play, England made sure it was to be the decisive play and with the Germans going a man down, the play was set up perfectly with Sherry-Brennan puling free to secure the win with 00:14 to go.
If the first game hadn’t gone to plan for the guys, they had an immediate opportunity to make amends with a 15-minute turnaround before playing Wales.
However, as maybe expected, Wales came out a little sharper in the opening exchanges, taking an early 1-2 lead into the end of Q1, Ryan Hunns with the England goal.
The sluggish opening quarter and performance against Germany were unfamiliar for a side who had performed so well in Israel last month and the concerted effort to make amends was evident from the restart.
Ryan Sweetman scored perhaps the goal of the day with a nice BTB effort to tie the game, before a more clinical offensive unit began to show with an Alex Russell brace and efforts for Tim Collins and Zac Guy setting England on a five-goal streak to lead 6-2.
Wales did pull one back on the half but a comfortable 6-3 lead gave the team the confidence in the second-half to take the initiative and hammer home the advantage.
Hunns completed his hat-trick while Sherry-Brennan, Sweetman and Will Hardy all added goals in another 5-1 quarter to lead 11-5 at the ¾ time.
And a shutout in the final quarter, combined with another two for Ryan Hunns, who took his tally to five for the game, and two for Collins to get his hat-trick, made the final score line an emphatic 15-5 win.
Scorers v Germany: Josh Sherry-Brennan (2), Jak Wawrzyniak, Nick Watson, Ryan Hunns, Pete Hayes, Ryan Sweetman
Scorers v Wales: Ryan Hunns (5), Tim Collins (3), Ryan Sweetman (2), Alex Russell (2), Zac Guy, Josh Sherry-Brennan, Will Hardy