5G went down to the Euro Qualifiers with ambitions to qualify by right to compete in the 2012 European Championships by finishing in the top ten of the entered teams. There was a requirement of all teams to be of a competitive standard which, with Polo Erectus and perhaps ASBO last year, Manchester had been flirting with the borderline - the notable exception being Netto, who qualified seventh in 2011.
The day got off to a bad start with flooded courts being swept at 8am. We were the first on court against Tornadoes with both teams playing an inevitably edgy game, exploring the slippery conditions. A single goal with 20 seconds to go was as unjust against 5G as it would have been against Tornadoes, however we had to deal with it and get on with the day. Kings were the next in a line of LDN league teams, all benefitting from the consistency that regular competition patently gives them. Our attempts to play progressively led to effective counterattacks and a convincing defeat. Partial redemption came in a 0-2 loss to Dead Rappers. Free from any expectations of a win, we were able to discover our underdog spirit, finally finding energy, resolve and spirit from the contest. It wasn't until an undeserved draw against Black Stabbath, 4-0 victors over Tornadoes, that results came - Emyr's mid court backhand boomed into the net with seconds on the clock and the relief of gaining our first point was borderline ecstatic! A further draw against Passed It added to our conviction that we weren't playing as badly as the results would indicate, backed with leading Cosmic (albeit with a third string sub) by two clear goals before being muscled out of a result by Mat. Comprehensive victories against John H's Rat Trap and Vidal's Le Big Mac confirmed our new found form, the commitment to attack utilising three up whenever possible, unlocked all our goal scoring potential and Chan's pilot light was finally lit. He became rampant in the final five matches, with the crowd sensing he was rediscovering some 2010 skills, along with the cheeky midmatch banter with our opponents! Our penultimate game was against Mavericks/Yea Baby - we'd narrowly lost a golden goal game recently in Cambridge so were eager to make amends, but we were soon down to Bogey's freak rebound goal. I had two shots ping off the posts and we thought our run might be coming to an end. However Chan's equaliser brought the crowd alive and we edged into a 3-2 lead with minutes to go. We tried to hold on in the gloom for a victory that may well have seen us qualify, but Kropa's speculative shot found it's way through several BBs and mallets to roll into the net to level the match. We wrapped up the day with a competitive and end-of-the-day fun game with Gettin, scoring 2 champagne goals to their 4.
In summary, we competed strongly with every team, drawing or beating teams that finished above us in qualification slots up to 4th place (curiously losing to three teams that ultimately finished below us). Every performance was competitive, although only our afternoon play carried the threat required to win. LDN teams of average ability have the consistency and experience that comes from regular competitive play - this remains the clear line of difference between us and the other RoE teams demonstrated over the course of a full round robin event. Of course it feels shit to not qualify although we know we demonstrated Manchester's clean and exciting brand of polo once we'd found our genuine form. It remains a fact that Manchester isn't quite ready to win big yet - we have to gain more regular competitive experience if we want to go further as teams and that will remain a problem for us all to resolve in due course.
Thanks for your support guys - next time we'll crack it!
Nah, well done, all we need to do is give a few quid to some dodgy types and one of the other teams could get some unfortunate injuries and you're off to Rouen.