This year’s Durham team stepped up to the plate this weekend, to take on the country’s finest in an exhibition game at Timperley lacrosse club. For the first time since Durham’s success in BUCS began the University side took the long coach journey down to Manchester to face not only an English team, but an English team made up of the top players in the country. All previous seasons there’s been a lot of huffing and puffing from the Northern league teams and Durham alike, and plenty of big claims about who would win should they finally face off. This time Durham put their money where their mouths were and agreed to this double header with the current England training squad.
Durham opened the game nicely, and looked like they would give the England squad a highly competitive game; however they struggled to keep their cool later on and allowed England’s well drilled man up unit some dangerous minutes on the field. In the return fixture Durham will have to keep the penalties to a minimum if they want to run the English side closer.
Josh Roden looked best on paper, bagging a comfortable four goals and really testing the Durham defensive unit. Ady Bennett and Will Sugden both saw a little less time, but still came up with multiple goals grabbing 3 and 2 respectively in only half a game. Roden and Bennett both found themselves on the end of a few moves for England in and around the crease, where Durham’s defence were struggling to keep pace with England’s ball movement.
In their attacking unit Durham’s individual play was easily stifled by the English lacrosse squad, who will be disappointed to have slipped 6 against the boys in purple. Despite the 6 goals both goal keepers put up impressive numbers, Nick Anderton in particular was on form, grabbing himself 9 saves from a potential 12 and taking home a hefty 75% save percentage. England’s long sticks did not get beat one on one, but rather Durham grabbed their goals elsewhere, finding the space to take 22 shots.
On the part of Durham their attacking quarter back Keegan Bal wore number 1, and ran the show nicely for them. The talented North American communicated well with his team mates and was able to act as a catalyst for almost all of their more fluid moments. Out of midfield Durham midfielder Garrett Dollard was a constant cause of concern for the England side, dodging and creating space regularly but never quite having enough options in front of him to really cause damage.
As the game progressed England’s lead continued to grow, pulling further away from the University side with each possession. Young long stick midfielder Tommy Kirkland looked strong for England, managing to grab himself an assist for the stat sheet too. Kirkland knew what to expect against Durham, playing his University lacrosse at Sheffield Hallam along with goal keeper Tim Blower. Since his inclusion in the England squad Kirkland’s tenacious ground balls and impressive handling have stood him in good stead ahead of selection.
Once England took the lead they never looked back. Even with notable absences like Tom Gallon, Ben McAlister, Glen Humphries and of course their English born players out at college in the states England still looked good. The final score was 12 – 6 in favour of England.
Durham are already looking forward to the return fixture at their place which will be held on March 16th, and well worth a watch for any lacrosse fans close enough. In the meantime both teams will continue to train and improve, and undoubtedly be looking to use these two games to see just how much they have improved.
Written by: Tom Roche
Image Credit: Durham University (Facebook)
Stats for England:
Josh Roden 4+1
Tom Gosnay 1+4
Ady Bennett 3+1
Will Sugden 2+1
Sam Dexter 1+1
Ben Lyon 1+0
Sam Russell 0+1
Ollie White 0+1
Tommy Kirkland 0+1
Nick Anderton 9/12 (75%)
Tim Blower 7/10 (70%)