After two magnificent wins last weekend, Richmond Docklands maintained their momentum in 2018 to register their sixth Super8s victory of the season. In doing so they did the league double over Wessex and retained third place in the table.
Since Richmond Docklands travelled to Bournemouth in October and came away with an impressive 3-0 victory, Wessex had shown some fine home form; winning three matches and only losing 3-1 to Team Northumbria. However, Wessex’s form on the road is not as strong, with their last away victory in the Super8s back in February last year.
Andy Jones’ team belied this stat at the start of the match, racing into an 8-2 lead. However, Richmond Docklands slowly established their own rhythm and with the help of some tactical serving by Julian Marcon and Vuk Kosanovic, the home side turned the scoreboard upside down to lead 14-10. Jones introduced new signing Aden Tutton to try and spark his side back into life. The Australian played at the 2012 Olympics, so was joining two other Olympians on court in the shape of Docklands’ captain Andrew Pink and Wessex’s libero Dan Hunter. Tutton brought stability back to Wessex’s passing unit but Docklands were still in control at 20-18. However, a serving error after a Wessex time-out gave the visitors a boost and in no time at all they led 22-20. The momentum was back with Wessex and they closed out the set 25-22.
Pink led the discussion between sets and implored his side to keep the faith, confident that they had the ability to overcome the team from Bournemouth. His teammates responded accordingly and led by young setter Javier Bello, the home side quickly established a commanding lead. Jones replaced Wessex’s talisman Andrea Ivanov, who was misfiring at the net, but it made no difference as Richmond Docklands led 19-14 as the game approached the business end of the set. The visitors managed to narrow the gap towards the end but an ace by Pink tied the match with a 25-23 second set win.
The momentum was all with the hosts and sets three and four turned into processions. Bello continued to run his offense with maturity as Richmond Docklands’ passing unit stabilised the service to the 17-year-old setter. Marcon scored some impressive points in difficult situations and Pink and Panos Karagiannis provided variety on the outside to kill off any hope Wessex might have had. The middle blocking pair of Dan Westphal and Kosanovic dominated the centre of the court, who along with the absent Flavien Hias, have again demonstrated the strength Docklands have in this position and the competition for court time between the trio is only helping them all raise their games.
Unfortunately, Libero Matteo Veggian will be leaving London shortly and will be hard to replace. He recovered well after a slow start and again provided some crucial pick-ups. As Richmond Docklands cruised to their third victory of 2018, Bello introduced 15-year-old Jonathon Anderson for his Super8s debut, the youngest ever for Docklands in the top division. The youngster looked at home at this level and produced a towering solo block to claim the match winning point at 25-16 in the fourth set. Remarkably, Richmond legend Anton Kornilov also made his Super8s debut in the same match, becoming the oldest ever debutant for Docklands in the top tier.
Captain Pink commented after the victory, “We showed some real spirit today and recovered well from a poor start. I’m confident we can keep on doing well this season and defy any expectations anyone had at the start of the season. It was great to see the young guys really step up and it bodes well for the future of this team”.
Coach Bello added, “To get nine points from the last three games is unbelievable. I’m really proud of the team and the way they battled to all three wins. Our training last week was disappointing so imagine what we can do when we have a good training week”.
Richmond Docklands return to the KO Cup next weekend with a tough quarter final away to Sheffield.
Black Knight: Javier Bello
Docklands MVP: Javier Bello
Wessex MVP: Aden Tutton