Blanks fires winner for Midlands

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Hockey

BILL COLWILL

There was disappointment for the men at Bristol when the Divisional tournament had to be cancelled on the last day on Saturday. But there were no long faces at Sheffield's Concord and nearby Rotherham's Aurora centres when the women completed their three day Territorial tournaments with a hat-trick of wins for the Midlands.

Sarah Blanks, the Balsam Leicester striker, celebrated her 20th birthday in style by scoring the winning goal three minutes from time to give Midlands the under-21 title with a thrilling 3-2 victory against the defending champions, East.

In a game which surely featured the bulk of Mary Nevill's England squad that will do battle in Cardiff in August for the European Nations Cup, the two outstanding territories played entertaining hockey in the arctic conditions, taking full advantage of the experimental no offside rule and being allowed to strike at goal from anywhere within the 25-yard area.

From the moment Vicky Sandall powered her way through the Midlands' defence to put East ahead in the sixth minute there was no shortage of action. There were brave saves by both goalkeepers and misses at both ends, as numbed hands lost grip on the sticks, but it was the Midlands, following goals from Sarah McKay and Natalie Hannah, who went into the interval leading 2-1.

Within a few minutes of the restart, Melanie Clewlow put East on terms. With the game in the balance, there was excitement in both halves as the teams strove for the winner, and just three minutes remained as Hannah brought a fine save from Natalie Westcar with Blanks driving home the rebound to signal the start of the celebrations.

There was even more for Midlands to cheer about when their under-18s clinched their title with a 3-1 win against North while the under-16s, who had made sure of the title by Friday evening, finished off with a 2-0 win against South.

The men were in action inDundee where the Old Loughtonians' became the first English club to win the Menzieshill Indoor Tournament thanks to 14 goals by their Australian, Steve Carter.

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