Having relinquished their UK Club Championship title last year, York Phoenix sent a resounding message to all their opponents as they took the regional league title yet again.
Things came to a head at the weekend as they went into the final matches with Ripon Vanquish on top - but Phoenix had a game in hand and had to play Vanquish.
The first of the two matches was Phoenix against a very strong Vanquish side who, under the guidance of player-coach Tom Hildreth, maintained their discipline and structure to keep in touch with Phoenix, trailing by a mere 5 points at the first interval 49-44. Stung by this, Phoenix roared into the attack, piling the pressure on but again, Vanquish stood firm and Phoenix could only extend their lead by another 6 points to lead 110-97 at half time.
In the third quarter, Phoenix redoubled their efforts and got into their stride, swarming round Vanquish and breaking down their defences. Although Vanquish fought back hard they were no match for a rampant Phoenix who extended their lead to a comfortable 172-144. Tom rallied his team for the final period, and again they held their structure and their discipline and, in a repeat of the second period, Vanquish were close to Phoenix, restricting them to a 6 point difference for the period meaning an overall win of 230-196 for Phoenix.This put Phoenix on top of the table on strike difference but with one game in hand they were determined to make it emphatic - and HellFighters were in the firing line.
Phoenix took no chances. HellFighters fought hard to maintain their structure but the pace of Phoenix's game gave them no chance to settle. Captained by reigning singles World Champion Scott Snowdon, Phoenix had the upper hand all the way through the match and were never in any danger as they moved comfortably to a 274-214 victory to take the title and announce in emphatic style that they are back.
York almost got a one-two as the club's other team, the Raiders, were battling the Vipers for the Division 2 title in a decider match.Unfortunately they were a player down which made all the difference as they lost by a mere three points with Vipers taking the Division 2 trophy.It has been a rapid rise for Northallerton VX Club. Having only formally relaunched in September 2015 they reached the point where they could actually enter a team, the Vipers, into the Regional VX League - and they ended up winning the Division 2 title!
It all came to a head when they beat the long-established HellCats to set up a clincher against title favourites, Raiders. Northallerton's Vipers have not long played together and the club tends to focus on the small-sided games so to have reached this position was already a massive achievement. With the title at stake the first period was a tense, edgy affair with Raiders going into the first interval with a slight lead of 5 points. Taking heart from this performance, player-coach Matty Horsfield urged his players on and with increased pressure the tide began to turn and Vipers took the period to go into half time leading by 8 points, 121-113.
Raiders are led by the highly-experienced Carl Alsop and this showed in the third quarter as he led from the front as Raiders launched repeated attacks to win the period by six points and reduce the deficit to a mere two points, 181-183.
With the match, and title, so finely balanced both teams tore into each other in a fast and furious final period. With the lead changing hands several times the whistle blew with Vipers winning the period by a single point to make the final score 232-229 in what was widely regarded as the most exciting match of the season.