L1 Lift Eighth Premier Division Title
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies celebrated their eighth successive Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division title with a 1-0 win at East Grinstead on Saturday.
Surbiton were crowned champions before the match at Saint Hill after goals from Cerys Miller and Hannah Grieve gave Beeston a 2-0 win at Hampstead & Westminster, the only team in a position to catch Surbiton at the start of the day.
Darcy Bourne's seventh minute open play goal earned Surbiton their third win of the season over East Grinstead at a sunny but chilly Saint Hill.
Due to the restructuring of the Premier Division schedule extending the regular season into April, Surbiton played their first league game in April since 1 April 2006, when they won 4-1 against Brighton & Hove to clinch promotion from South Clubs' Women's Hockey League 3B, a distant step towards where Surbiton are now as a domestic powerhouse.
Forward to 2022 and Sophie Hamilton made her attacking intent known early running towards the East Grinstead goal in the first minute and a Bourne attack was stopped by East Grinstead's Courtney Hansford.
The only goal came in the seventh minute with Martha Le Huray finding Bourne on the left of the circle to beat Laura Myers in the home goal and draw level with Sophie Bray as the division's leading goalscorer on 18 goals.
East Grinstead tried to get back into the game by putting pressure on the Surbiton goal at the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, but Surbiton held out, although Bray tried to restore her place as the top goalscorer with a shot in the second quarter.
Defences were on top with Eloise Stenner having a blocked shot for Surbiton and Kathryn Boyd and Laura Unsworth combining to halt another Bourne attack.
East Grinstead forced a single penalty corner in the first half, Sabbie Heesh saving from Ellie Rayer.
In the second half, Hansford had a shot to try and level for the hosts and Hamilton was frustrated as her shot went past the right post following another penetrating run.
Heesh made an excellent double save from East Grinstead's second penalty corner and Stenner shadowed Rayer down the left wing as the hosts, needing a win to boost their chances of European qualification tried to find a way through the Surbiton defence.
The fourth quarter was floodlit as East Grinstead had three more penalty corner opportunities but Rayer was denied twice before the Surbiton defence tightened up for the fifth and final award, preventing a shot on goal.
Alex Malzer's shot clipped the outside of the left post and Malzer also made a counter attack after Holly Payne's shot was blocked from a Surbiton penalty corner, but East Grinstead couldn't find an equaliser with Bray missing out once again with four minutes remaining.
East Grinstead still looked capable of snatching an equaliser until the final whistle was blown to ensure that Surbiton remained unbeaten away from home for the season.
With East Grinstead and Hampstead both losing, Wimbledon moved up to second place with one game to play. Surbiton host Wimbledon and Hampstead are at home to East Grinstead next week when all games start at 2 pm as it's the last round of matches.
In Bottom 5, Swansea, although relegated, achieved their second win of the season, 2-1 at Holcombe. The University of Birmingham and Buckingham drew 1-1.
In the Men's Premier Division, Old Georgians also clinched their maiden title at Saint Hill with a 5-0 win over East Grinstead.