10th Dec, 2016

Stratford ladies retain team National Championship title in North Wales

Stratford Editorial 26th May, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A TEAM of local canoeists are celebrating after retaining the National Canoe Polo Ladies Championship title following a busy weekend of action in North Wales.

The Dragon Ladies team travelled to the old North Dock in Llanelli looking to retain their place at the top of the sport.

The team included local paddler and Stratford Leisure centre manager Nicole Brain, 23, and her 18-year-old sister Danielle, who is currently reading Pharmacology at Liverpool University.

Keeping it in the family, the pair were joined by their mother Tina who has played canoe polo since her teens and they Brain family were joined by Julie Morris from South Wales, along with Bethan Littlewood and Louise Saxon who are both in the Great Britain ladies team along with Nicole and Danielle.

The paddlers were met by wet and windy weather on the opening day of competitiuon but that did not put the Dragons off after they won all of their opening matches convincingly against Viking Ladies (8-0), Aberavon (8-2), Loughborough (10-0) and London (11-1).

Sunday turned out to be a fine and sunny day making the event more enjoyable and the Dragon Ladies had to end the tournament at least three points above their nearest rival, Meridian Ladies, to win the championship.

Expecting a difficult game at the end of the day, they were surprised to see the young new team of Friends of Allonby (FOA) Ladies beat Meridian Ladies in the first game of the day.

This meant the championship was almost theirs and it was confirmed after the Dragons beat FOA 9-5 and Scarlet Ladies (Scotland) 4-2 to claim the title for the second year running.

The final game, set up by ranking, was now a needle match between the Dragon Ladies and the Meridian Ladies. With nothing to lose the Meridian Ladies played hard and well, managing, to their satisfaction, to beat the Dragon Ladies 4-1.

It was a disappointing result for Dragon Ladies but they came away from North Wales with the Championship title knowing they are still the number one team to beat.

The Men’s National Championship Play-offs were also played at the same location over the two days and the Dragons started in a better position then last year in third from bottom and were boosed by the support of ex-Olympic canoe slalom paddler Chris Arrowsmith.

It has been a difficult season for the dragons who finished fifth in the national rankings after struggling to get a full team together.

The Cherwell Valley Men’s team, from Banbury, who normally have a Sunday evening training session in the Stratford Leisure Centre Pool in the winter, were playing to stay up in Division One having gained promotion last year.

Having not won a game coming into the play-offs they performed much better in South Wales after winning three of their matches over the weekend.

This still left them at the bottom of the league table which meant they had to face Meridian A who were placed just above them in the ranking table, but they were well beaten and drop back down to Division Two for next season.