Jonny revels in western rivalry
THEY may have been given a massive hand by adversaries Exeter University in the race to the play-offs, but Team Bath skipper Jonny Verity insists the West Country rivalry is still alive and kicking.
Verity, 21, who is in his final year of a maths degree at Bath, has enjoyed a hugely successful season wearing the armband.
The BUCS student’s side topped the South A table for the second time in three years, ahead of Exeter, but crashed out of the Championship on sudden-death strokes after playing out a 3-3 draw with Birmingham in the quarter-finals.
However, a number of the students are still alive in Saturday league hockey, with several making up the Team Bath Buccaneers line-up that has qualified for the end of season play-offs.
After losing their opening game of the season to Cardiff & Met they were playing catch-up, but a stunning run of eight straight wins after Christmas saw the Buccaneers to the promotion tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Exeter grabbed a crucial 4-4 draw with Cardiff & Met on the final day of the season that helped Bath into top spot, but Verity believes there will still be no love lost between them despite the favour.
“We battled so well to win our final eight games, and to win 2-0 away in Cardiff was obviously key for us in that run,” he said.
“We scored the most goals in the league and that really demonstrates how we’ve gone about it this season; we’ve attacked and it’s paid off quite nicely in the end.
“We saw that Exeter were playing Cardiff in the last game and that was always going to be a hard one for both sides – we were hoping Exeter could pick up points as they went from strength to strength in the league.
“We were quite surprised they ended up so close to us after the start they made, and we’re happy of course they did what they did, but the rivalry is definitely still there.
“I think over the last few years at university level, Bath are taking the mantle from Exeter; when they were in the Prem they were dominant on Wednesdays, but now I would back us to be the favourites going forward.”
Verity will miss the promotion tournament through injury, but is desperate to see the side learn their lessons from the 2015 campaign where they lost two of three matches.
He said: “The first game will be paramount this year for us. We played Canterbury first last time, conceded seven goals, and it put us on the back foot straight away.
“This year we have Sevenoaks and we’re hoping to get an early win there and go from strength to strength instead.
“Durham will be a tough test – you have to admire their domination of the North League – but maybe they won’t have had as many tough games.
“Who knows what Canterbury will bring this time; they are seasoned campaigners, and looking at it have to be the hardest team having played the whole season in the Prem – it’s a totally different level.”
Team Bath have now gone out at the quarterfinal stage of the BUCS Championship five years running, and despite the Buccaneers success on Saturdays, Verity admits it can be hard to adjust to student hockey during the week.
“Half the team are students and the other half are either graduates or other local guys,” he said.
“We’re lucky we can blend it all together, the intensity and fitness of students with the experience and structure of the others.
“But while we took some impetus from the National League side into Wednesdays, potentially it’s a slight disadvantage as we are not playing with the same team all the time.
“Getting past the quarter-finals would be a massive step forward for the University; we want to level the student playing field between the north and south.”