Inspirational Mercer bags hat-trick as Lions roar to second straight title

On the back of a Xander Mercer hat-trick the Sydney University Lions roared in Friday’s goal medal match-up, stunning the previously undefeated Cronulla Sharks to claim a second consecutive Water Polo NSW Under-14 Boys’ Championship.

Mercer proved unstoppable in front of goal as the Lions turned it on and the Sharks faltered on the biggest stage at Orange Aquatic Centre, Tommy Oates and Aidan Principe also finding the back of the net in their side’s comprehensive 5-1 win.

The title was the perfect finish to the week for the Sydney Uni club, which had also claimed the girls’ equivalent in Dubbo earlier on Friday afternoon.

“I’m very, very pleased with the boys, we won last year so we’d definitely come here to win. I haven’t ever been to a tournament to lose,” Sydney Uni coach Lindsay Cotterill laughed.

“Cronulla has a very good goalkeeper in Patrick Moro, so our plan was just to get it past him. It’s a simple plan, I know, but the boys managed to do it.

“Xander was absolutely outstanding, that was a huge performance.”

The Lions had lost just one game in the lead-up to Friday’s decider, to the Sharks. That was a hard-fought 4-3 defeat on Tuesday’s second day.

“We still came into the final very confident,” Cotterill said.

“We have a very good side and they’d played really well (all tournament). Cronulla had been a bit unlucky, they had a few injuries and I think that hurt them a bit, but they still have a great striking player (in Maxwell Churchyard) so it’s fantastic to win.”

Cronulla looked to have opened the scoring through Churchyard early, but he was a touch late on his shot, firing it in just after the shot clock expired.

Mercer gave the Lions a 1-0 lead just seconds later, and his side defended that buffer stoically to stay in front at quarter-time.

Churchyard struck just after the break though, taking a simple opportunity to equalise. 

But, when Principe dropped a long-range bomb just before the half-time break the Lions regained momentum and never let go.

Mercer scored two more in the third quarter – his third was an incredible backhand shot – and although Rory McKell popped one in to make it 4-2 in the fourth, the Lions finished off through Oates.

UNSW Wests Magpies claimed the bronze, defeating Hunter 8-4 in the third place play-off.

In Division B SNB Breakers White claimed the title by defeating Central Coast in the decider, with Tamworth coming third.

They drew with Sydney Uni Gold in the play-off, but took bronze after beating Uni in the preliminary games.