Regional playoffs, 7th May, Bedford Academy
Royston took part in the East Region playoff tournament, looking to gain promotion to East Region’s division three. After a fourth consecutive Cambridgeshire Premier League title, and having lost out at two previous playoffs and been denied by the pandemic, the team were keen to make this time count.
With no entrants from Bedfordshire or Thurrock, there were six teams competing for two promotion places: Royston, Finborough (Suffolk), Norfolk Utd (East Region 3), SAS Reds (Herts), Suffolk Rockets (East Essex) and Thoroughbreds (Norfolk).
Royston’s first opponents, on a damp and slippery court, were Norfolk United, who were fighting to retain their place in the regional competition, having finished second bottom in division three this season. The team made a great start, turning over the first centre pass, and never looked back – an 11-5 first half was followed by an amazing second half, scoring another 11 goals and restricting Norfolk Utd to 2 more, finishing 22-7.
The tournament format left very little time for recovery, with only a few minutes between games. Next up was Thoroughbreds, and despite a few mistakes taking the ball to the circle in the first half, Royston came out 17-8 winners. It was already apparent that the whole squad was going to be needed, and the ability to bring on fresh legs at the right moment was going to be important.
The third game vs SAS Reds was looking like the toughest fixture, and so it proved. After going goal-for-goal in the early stages, a couple of turnovers saw SAS three goals ahead at half time. Royston staged a rally, and missed the opportunity to level the game after a turnover, but had to settle for a losing point in a 22-21 defeat.
With two promotion spots available, there was still all to play for, and our coach Tracey Stimson was doing an excellent job keeping the players motivated and positive. By now, the sun was shining, and the effects of so many games were beginning to show for all the teams. Royton’s fourth opponents were playoff debutantes Suffolk Rockets, and Royston lifted themselves to a resounding 25-10 win. Meanwhile, SAS had lost to Norfolk Utd, meaning it was still possible for Royston to finish first, second or third depending on the final round of games.
Lining up against Finborough, the players were clearly tiring, and it was a struggle for both teams to find the net. A tense second half saw Finborough fight back from 11-4 to 16-11, but the win meant that Royston were guaranteed at least second place, and promotion.
The results were announced in reverse order, and a huge cheer went up as SAS were placed second, meaning Royston had won. Level on points, the winning margin was a difference of 0.004 on goal average – the equivalent of a less than a single goal over the whole tournament.
The club is so proud of the players’ and our coach Tracey’s achievements this season, 14 games undefeated in the league and finally promotion – it was a tough decision picking the twelve players to take to the playoffs, and our thanks go out to everyone who has helped with playing, coaching and supporting this season.
Regional Playoff Squad:
Izzie Harrop (vice-captain)
Karen Hume (captain)
Head Coach: Tracey Stimson