Bristol Bombers are within touching distance of top flight status after a nail-biting victory over West Country rivals Bath in the W1 clash of the season.
The 6-5 win maintained their 100% record and secured the W1 title and a spot in East-West play-off for the Premier League for Season 13/14.
With Spencer and Reading 2s heading E1, their rivals could be third placed Buckhurst Hill should they choose to contest the game.
The instant response to the pain of relegation last season came courtesy of 15 straight wins in which they rifled in 213 goals while only conceding 28.
“It is a good feeling and we’re delighted to have won the league,” said face-off specialist Nick Fife. “We’ve worked hard throughout the season to both win the league and develop the club.”
The Bombers’ 2nd team has won promotion from W2 to cap a glorious season for the club, which was founded in 2007. The celebrations are in stark contrast to the feeling at the end of last season when they were relegated with just two wins and a draw. But experienced observers of SEMLA league waves noticed inner steel and a willingness to learn. “It was our first time in the Prem and we didn’t really appreciate how big the step up was,” added Fife. “It didn’t help that we lost our entire attack for various reasons between the promotion and the first game in the Prem.
“It was tough but we got a lot from it and it made us very determined to get back.” They managed to hang on to their squad and set about W1 rivals with gusto. The solid defence was like a brick wall behind the considerable presence of experienced keeper Bob Chapman.
The team has an impressive athletic approach and Dom Sandy had a stand-out season in midfield with David Mosely stepping up to add a new dimension to their attack play at X. Both were selected for the English Universities squad. “Everyone improved their standards during the season which was really pleasing,” said Fife. “Sometimes that was difficult because, with no disrespect to other teams, there is a wide range in the league.
“We had to keep everyone focused because the main threat was Bath and we had to make sure we were ready for those games. We were a bit nervy in the first, which we won by one goal but we were more confident and played better last Saturday. “We were two up with a minute to play but they got one back with 38 seconds left which made it edgy but we managed to win possession and see it out.” The core squad that won promotion will be ready for a Prem season – should they win the Play-Off game – but they are also looking to recruit new talent and develop promising players from the 2nd team.
The Bombers have a close connection with Bristol University and help coach the BUCS team, which won through to the Premier level semi-final where they fell to champions Durham. Head coach Guy Oldring continues to put in the hours for both teams.
“He is a high calibre coach and it is great to have him around. We train just after the Uni team on Thursday evenings so the links are there and we are also keen to encourage new local players to come along,” added Fife. “Our immediate focus is still next year in the Prem but we want to develop the two teams so we have competition for places, improve our depth and continue to build Bristol lacrosse.”
The Bombers are also in the Intermediate Flags Final where they face Spencer 2s, who are favourites to secure the E1 title, in what promises to be an exciting match-up. The weather again laid waste to the league programme with Hampstead inflicting a 9-4 defeat on Welwyn in the only Prem game to survive the Saturday while Reading and Blues played out a 6-6 on Sunday.
The only other games were in East 2 where Spencer 3s made the long trip to Norwich to play in a near blizzard and were rewarded with a 7-6 victory. Epsom racked up another win at Brighton on their astro but were made to work hard by a spirited Panthers team for the 17-10 victory.
The fixture pile-up is a real headache with ground space evaporating over Easter and teams scrabbling to complete matches before the Flags Finals on April 20. This Saturday sees two crucial games with Spencer visiting the Westway knowing that Hampstead will be keen to disrupt their coronation and take away that impressive 100% win record.
At the other end, a season-defining clash between Welwyn and Purley will see the winner going a long way to securing survival. Cardiff have three must-win games and the first is away at Blues.