Richmond Docklands were forced to rue missed opportunities as they attempted to do the double over Super8s champions IBB Polonia London. Luis Bello’s side had stunned Polonia on the opening day of the season with a dramatic five-set victory, giving Richmond Docklands’ a massive boost at the start of the season. But Polonia gained revenge in a hard fought encounter that so easily could’ve gone the other way.
Richmond Docklands started confidently, seemingly thriving in the cacophony of noise created by Polonia’s boisterous supporters. Docklands had their own loud section of the crowd and they were enjoying seeing their team dominate the home side. Joaquin Bello and Andrew Pink were flying high on the wings while Mathieu Ras was scoring points in his usual unorthodox way. Polonia made a total of ten errors in the first set as Richmond Docklands took it 25-18.
In set two Polonia managed to settle themselves and the game was finely balanced at 10-10 when Polonia coach Piotr Graban introduced Brazilian middle blocker Vitor De Oliveira Wanderley. His serve had an immediate impact and Richmond Docklands were suddenly 13-10 down. The set quickly went away from Richmond Docklands as Polonia levelled the match with a 25-18 second set win.
Some observers would have expected Polonia to go on and steamroller their way to victory but Richmond Docklands had other ideas. They refound their form from set one and went toe-to-toe with their hosts. Docklands battled their way into a 22-17 lead and looked set to go 2-1 ahead. But then the wheels came off and Polonia gained valuable momentum just at the right time. Docklands could not sideout and Polonia took a massive six points in a row to lead 23-22. Docklands finally managed to regain serve and then gave themselves a second chance with set point at 24-23. However, Polonia took control again and Docklands had no answer as the home side took a vital third set 26-24.
Richmond Docklands could easily have succumbed after that disappointment but they started strongly in set four to lead 8-4 at the first technical time out. Their lead was extended by a point after Graban was shown a red card after he protested a referee call. But this just seemed to spur his side back into action as they made a stunning run of points to lead 16-12 by the second enforced stop. The home side extended their lead to five points at 22-17 but could Docklands turn the tables on the scoreboard as Polonia had done from the same position in the previous set? It seemed unlikely but after three probing serves by Flavien Hias the impossible was back on with Docklands only one point behind at 22-21. Unfortunately for Docklands, history would not repeat itself as despite saving two match points, Polonia took the set 25-23.
Coach Bello commented afterwards, “We had a great chance and forced Polonia to raise their game. I’m proud of the team but frustrated that we lacked the consistency to finish off the job when we had the chance”.
Richmond Docklands now have another three weeks off before they face old rivals Malory on 24th March at Ernest Bevin College, Docklands’ last match before the play-offs.
Black Knight: Joaquin Bello
Docklands MVP: Joaquin Bello
Polonia MVP: Marcel Sivak