The climax to the summer netball tournaments could not have been more satisfying.
Four Saffron Hawks netball teams reached the semi-finals of the Essex Open Regional Tournament. For three of them, it was (U16) national champions Turnford lying in wait.
The Hawks U16 lost 4-8 in their semi-final to the youth side of London Pulse, the U19 NPL champions. Every younger team seeks to emulate their lighting-fast passing and bewildering movement. Very few get this close to matching Pulse.
Then came three huge matches against Turnford. Two semis, and a final.
The U14’s semi-final was first. Hawks stayed in touch with their national-finalist opponents, with the 8-14 score not fully reflecting the end-to-end action. The Hawks U12s were next to scale the heights. Their match against Turnford was the game of the season, and they can hold their heads high after an agonisingly narrow 8-10 loss.
As the U11s were undefeated in their group, they happily avoided Turnford in the semis. They won their semi-final 11-6 against a spirited Poole side, and were the only Hawks team to advance to the final.
Having lost 11-4 to Turnford at the Tegate final a few weeks ago, the U11s were expecting a tough game. However, Hawks surprised themselves by racing into a 4-1 lead. They defended like their lives depended on it, but Turnford were not to be denied. They traded hard-fought goals, and with time running out, Hawks were 9-10 down. The final whistle sounded just as Hawks were about the shoot for the equaliser. Never has a loss felt so like a win.
For the U12s and U11s in particular, the future looks promising.