Jonny rev­els in western ri­valry

The Hockey Paper - - FOCUS ON YOUTH - By Jack Miller

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.”

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