UEA men’s Lacrosse made history by claiming their first ever Derby Day win in dramatic fashion.
Tied 10-10 at the final whistle, two overtime goals saw the Eagles emerge victorious and sparked wild scenes of celebration at Colney Lane.
Hat-tricks from Travis Payne and Jhan Tibudan, braces from Kurts Auza and Mitchell Hoverd plus goals from Matt Dewhurst and Sam Campbell took UEA to the historic win.
Hoverd put the hosts 1-0 up early on, however this only served as a wake-up call for the visitors. A devastating spell from Essex’s clinical attack saw them score three in quick succession, two from long range, showing the goalscoring form that took them to the summit of BUCS South East 2B this season with 9 wins out of 10 and a goal difference of +77.
However, two goals from UEA’s top scorer Payne, the second a superbly placed effort from a tight angle, saw the two teams go into the first quarter break tied at three apiece.
Essex rattled the cage at the start of the second period, but the ball didn’t quite sneak in. UEA continued to apply pressure, with Payne running through and putting a shot just wide, Campbell forcing a great save from the Essex keeper and Payne setting up Auza after a neat roll-dodge, but the Essex goalkeeper once again kept UEA at bay.
Soon UEA were ahead through Campbell who kept his cool from point blank range, with Tibudan extending UEA’s lead soon after. Essex clawed back another before half-time, but the momentum was very much with UEA, going into the break 5-4 up after further chances for Harry Harris, Connor Watson and Campbell again.
UEA’s defence did well to repel a spell of pressure from a rejuvenated Essex at the start of the third quarter, but they couldn’t keep out the equaliser. Dewhurst then restored UEA’s lead with a shot from distance, before Essex equalised for 6-6 shortly after. An incredible save from UEA goalkeeper Charlie Albuery with his body kept the scores level.
As the game became tighter and the lead changed hands, long-serving Albuery was a rock for UEA, making a number of important saves at crucial points in the game to protect the scoreline or prevent Essex from pulling away. An Essex break looked dangerous, but a smart check from Jamal Winn in UEA’s defence broke it up and snuffed out the danger.
With that particular storm weathered, Latvian youth international Kurts Auza then scored a brace as UEA reached 8-6 up. After an incredibly steadfast period of UEA defending, Essex’s star player found a way through for 8-7, but that was how the third quarter ended after Albuery made a big save with his feet to prevent an equaliser in the tense closing exchanges.
However, Essex’s equaliser did come at the start of the fourth quarter, before they agonisingly took the lead. After a UEA timeout, Payne was on target to level the scores at 9-9, with a desperate Essex defence unable to hold out. UEA were temporarily a man down after Hoverd tracked back and came in with a huge check, which got the already vociferous crowd even noisier. When he made it back on, Hoverd himself drew a foul with some nice passing coming to nothing from the resulting possession.
A good interception from UEA’s talisman and LSM Harris raised the volume levels once again, before Tibudan was there to put UEA 10-9 up. However, Essex then netted the equaliser and thought they’d won it with an eleventh, but thankfully for UEA their celebrations were cut short as the whistle had previously been blown for an infringement. Both teams held on in the nerve-wracking final minutes.
No-one knew at first what the protocol was in the event of a draw, but it was decided that two seven-minute periods of overtime would be played to find a winner. The end-to-end action continued. UEA had two big reprieves in defence, before a great run from Jacob Beauchamp set up Tibudan who forced a crucial Essex save, with Auza calling the keeper into action again soon after.
However, UEA didn’t have to wait long for Hoverd to prove the hero and put UEA 11-10 up before the overtime break, with the longest seven minutes of the Eagles’ lives ahead of them.
A vital Albuery save kept UEA ahead, with both Auza and Payne having chances to seal the win. However, with seconds to go, a deflected shot from Tibudan sealed his hat-trick and with it the win for UEA.
A pitch invasion and the ensuing celebrations from the packed sideline were only fitting after an exciting, tense and historic match, the last in blue and gold for the majority of UEA’s squad.
UEA’s victory was the result of a whole team performance, from Seb Grant’s impressive facing statistics which forced Essex to swap their facer, to the Eagles’ solid defence coming in with some big hits, the midfield’s creation of opportunities and the composure of UEA’s forward line under pressure – all on an unusually dry and dusty Colney Lane pitch.
Captain Payne told Concrete after the match: “I’ve never seen anything that was more of a team game than what we played. At 10-10 after 80 minutes, we had ice in our veins, the last goal that was put away by Jhan, he was cold-blooded with three goals and three assists.
“The game was back and forth for the full 80 minutes. But it doesn’t matter, the medals are round our necks, we did the job. These guys have worked so hard, they came back early [after Easter] and have been working hard day in, day out the whole year round to build up to this.
“We stayed up in the league, got BUCS 8s Trophy silver medals and the Derby Day win. We couldn’t have done any more.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other bunch of lads. The guys this year have had an amazing work ethic. We’ve been shouting at each other, hugging each other, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. I’m so happy to go out like this. I couldn’t have wished for anything more.”
Albuery added: “It was incredibly intense, especially when we went into overtime. We went from ahead to behind so many times. It was one of my favourite Lacrosse games I’ve ever played, it was so much fun, everyone left it all out there.
“We’ve been waiting for this for years, it’s unreal.”
The week was topped off for Payne and Albuery who travelled to Manchester for the Nick Kehoe home international tournament at the weekend, representing England Universities and the Irish development team respectively.
UEA: Charlie Albuery, Curtis Parnell, Ollie Forster-Vets, Jamal Winn, Paddy Watt, Luke Griffith, Harry Harris, Seb Grant, Owen Wilson, Euan Dickson, Ryan Clements, Jacob Beauchamp, Luke Harrison, Mitchell Hoverd, Matt Dewhurst, Connor Watson, Travis Payne (c), Jhan Tibudan, Kurts Auza, Sam Campbell, Will Vickers.