Rand Park High School became the first Gauteng-based team to win the annual Old Petrian’s Open Girls’ Water Polo tournament to the jubilation of a strong supporter turn-out, after beating defending champions, Reddam House College 8-7 in a nail-biting final.
Tournament hosts St Peter’s College presented enviable facilities in the Wahoo Aquatic Centre, located on school’s premises, and owned by parents of the school, Rick and Debbie Tudhope. Television crews, photographers, and a rowdy crowd, crammed into the impressive venue to witness some of the best girls’ school water polo on show.
Sign of things to come, Rand Park dominated the tournament’s Pool A, emerging unbeaten with 24 points after winning all eight fixtures including a 6-5 win over Reddam, and went on to a comprehensive 8-2 win over Pool B runners-up Westerford, before their finals encounter against Reddam.
After emerging second in Pool A where the Constantia-based team beat all the other teams except Rand Park, tournament defending champions Reddam ended their Pool A round-robin with 21 Points, before beating Pool B leaders Clarendon 6-4 in the second semi-final, to qualify for the finals encounter against Rand Park.
Westerford and Clarendon were the two teams in Pool B that managed to get a spot in the semi-finals with 21 points and 24 points respectively, outdoing the remaining teams that included some of the country’s best in Herschel, Kloof, Crawford, St Stithians, St Dunstan’s, Roedean and Edenvale.
The final was a heart-stopping affair, with the two contestants matching each other goal for goal through the four chukkas, until Rand Park managed to open a two-goal advantage in the final quarter, to lead 7-5.
The Reddam coach called for a team-talk time-out, and cautioned calm in the face of the storm, his efforts having the right effect as his team managed to score twice in quick succession, with less than a minute remaining in regulation play, and extra time seeming unavoidable.
But eventual champs Rand Park shrugged off the thought to score a belief-defying advantage with seconds to go, and as the final hooter sounded, the boisterous crowd went ballistic as the tournament champs created history, to lift the trophy in a proud presentation ceremony.
gsport Editor Kass Naidoo, who was poolside among the cheering crowd, gave the tournament a thumbs up, saying it was a great advert for women’s sport. "I take my hat off to St Peter’s College for sincerely backing girls’ sport in South Africa. For four years running, and with limited sponsorship and funding, St Peter’s has ensured that this tournament has become a fixture on its school sports calendar.
"Witnessing the high-class action in the pool, it’s no wonder that water polo is one of the fastest growing girls’ sports in South Africa. Congratulations to Rand Park and Reddam for providing one of the best finals in the tournament’s short history."