Cardiff ended Welwyn’s winning streak start to the season and registered their first win in a hard-fought 9-7 wrestle in Wales.
The Harlequins hoisted themselves off the foot of the league with a gutsy effort that combined flair with a huge effort in the trenches against the Warriors.
Only Hitchin remain winless while Hampstead, Hillcroft and Spencer all recorded victories that put them in the top three slots.
Welwyn started brightly in an attacking game and had a slender 4-3 lead at half time after keeping Quins goal-less in Q2. They held a 5-3 advantage at one stage but the home team roared back in a feisty and tense final quarter with Cardiff going ahead and Welwyn pegging them back.
“We took control in the final minutes and are delighted with the win,” said Cardiff’s Silas Fuller. “Both teams played some good attacking lacrosse but it was also a competitive and fiery game at times.”
Welwyn’s Alex Harper added: “We were extremely disappointed with our performance. We forced the ball far too much on offence and were sloppy in defence, definitely a long way off the standard we feel we should be playing at.
“But I can only commend Cardiff. They took their chances well and pushed us hard in transition. We are determined to use this as motivation to step up our game going into some big match-ups in the coming weeks.”
Cardiff head to Bristol for a mouthwatering local derby with the Bombers looking to bounce back to winning ways after going down 4-9 to Hillcroft.
“It was a loss but it’s a performance we are proud of,” said Bristol’s Guy Oldring. “They started well and put 2 past us in the first quarter. Our defense then shored up with some excellent saves by Bob Chapman and we then started hitting our stride. Two well worked goals in the second quarter left it as 2-3 at the half.”
The Bombers stayed competitive but a couple of lapses let the visitors stretch to a 6-3 lead going into Q4 where two quick Croft goals sealed the deal and, despite a well-worked strike by Matt Collis, they closed out the game 9-4.
“We played excellently and if it hadn’t been for 10 minutes of switching off we really feel like we could have pushed an upset as there wasn't much between the teams,” added Oldring.
Matt Tanner and Eoin Dunne grabbed hat-tricks as Hillcroft returned to action after a two-week lay-off and captain Tom Loake observed that the break had left them rusty.
“Our stick skills were poor and we took a huge number of penalties. Bombers played well and the away trip down the M4 is certainly one of the tougher away trips in the league,” he said. “We had a slow start but found some form towards the end and the defence stopped a series of extra man opportunities so this was not a vintage performance but an important win. We will look to improve away at Hitchin this weekend before our opening round Flags draw against Spencer on 11 November. “
Cambridge used the momentum of their Blues triumph to power a 15-2 victory at Hitchin and skipper Leander Crocker said: “It was a great game for us - the team is really working well together and we are setting up some great plays collectively and supporting each other with some great hustle.”
Hitchin captain Tom Clohessy sees progress despite his team’s faltering start and predicts better. “Cambridge played a solid game and moved the ball well in offence and we did not turn up on the day,” he said.
“We are confident that we are improving and can improve further as the season progresses. We've got a difficult fixture at the weekend at home to Hillcroft, one of the favourites for the league, but you only improve by playing against better teams.”
The Spencer-Blues clash of the Titans went to the Earlsifeld outfit 13-4 and the game, closer than the score suggests, was illuminated by a compelling face-off battle between Josh Dodd and Dave Baldwin.
Kyle Loda grabbed four goals while Ollie Prescott and Paddy Atkinson scored hat-tricks as Spencer jumped out to an early lead.
“It was an exciting game played in a very physical manner by both sides,” said Spencer coach Tom Leahy. “Blues-Spencer games are always great competitions and this didn’t disappoint. Rick Bone shored up a strong defensive performance, only conceding one second half goal while their keeper pulled off some great saves throughout the game.
“Our focus is on Hillcroft in the Flags and we are looking forward to a tough test against Cambridge this weekend, who have had some fantastic results, to get us ready for that encounter.”
Blues were still in the game going into the final Quarter before Spencer’s firepower finally quelled their resistance. The Banstead boys still have to field their full line-up because of injury and availability issues and skipper James Kidd is hopes that will be soon.
“Up until the 4th quarter the game was fairly even and were never more than a few goals behind,” he said. “We competed for much of the game. Obviously the score doesn't necessarily suggest this but I think for a large portion of the game we competed and if we had a bit more about us, could have won the game.
“We beat ourselves more than they beat us as our sloppy stick skills and poor decision making in all areas of the pitch really killed a lot of good things we did. It's very disappointing as at premiership level this shouldn't be an issue yet it is the main reason we are losing games.
“Reading is an absolute must win this week as we're slipping behind and have no desire to finish in the bottom half of the league.”
Reading were the latest team to reap the Hampstead hurricane which blew them away with 17-2 although Wildcats skipper Paul Milner commented: “Weirdly the game felt really competitive and our defence were great making strip after strip. “Hampstead really opened it up and took it so far away from us in the 3rd quarter scoring a flurry of quick goals.
“We just struggled to break them down and fielded a really young team with only 3 players over the age of 25. Experience really showed and Hampstead had some incredible players. “For us Paul Chapman was immense at the face and capped his man of the match performance with a goal. Zach Rooney scored our other with an absolutely unstoppable cannon of a shot.”
Bristol Bombers 4 - 9 Hillcroft
Harlequins 9 - 7 Welwyn
Hampstead 17 - 2 Reading
Hitchin 2 - 15 Cambridge
Blues 4 - 13 Spencer
Bristol Bombers v Harlequins (12:00pm)
Cambridge v Spencer
Hitchin v Hillcroft
Reading v Blues
Welwyn v Hampstead