Several Wednesdays ago, the Narwhals played Sutton and Cheam 2’s at Whitgift in a London League match up to add excitement and intrigue to the usually empty water polo month of August. This report was intended to be written at the time, but like a fine wine we can only hope it improves with age. Our regular report writer has spent the last 2 weeks sampling France’s finest reds, whites and fizz, so we shall consider the game as a wine tasting experience for you, our global fanbase.
There is a gentle start to our gastronomic voyage of discovery, a smooth, light Pinot Noir from somewhere in South America. Jut as the fruity notes of cherries, raspberries and strawberries offer a perfect but distinct contrast to the vanilla middle, the Narwhals were, in stark contrast to Sutton, informed of the correct start time of 9pm due to school holidays. We were optimistic of our chances when, at 9:10, we enjoyed a distinct advantage in manpower of 10 to zero. Alas this pinot noir had a bitter finish, as where one would expect a smooth rounded palate, the opposition duly turned up.
For those of you not so well versed in wine appreciation, there are 5 main elements to a wine’s profile: acid, alcohol, sugar, tannin and water. While the Narwhals might claim to be experts in the water (and almost certainly the alcohol), a fine wine requires that all 5 elements come together in harmony to form a well-balanced taste. The next glass on our tasting card is a French Bordeaux red. Specifically Chateau Norbert, 2018 vintage. An evenly balanced wine (specifically 1-1 after 6 minutes of the first quarter thanks to a fine goal off the arc from Phil), fragrant and ripe in character, but this particular offering had perhaps been corked as the finish was sharp and not to the Narwhals taste – a generally stoical and well organised defence found Sutton’s combination of strong pit and accurate outside shooters too much and fell to 2-4 by the quarter end. One diamond in the rough of this forgettable wine was a particularly handsome goal from Dan, ghosting off his defender at the back post to catch a lofted pass and convert into the back of the net.
Moving on from the Chateau Norbert with a shattered reputation and tastes of bitter disappointment we come to a pleasant surprise. We next travel to Georgia, to sample their signature red, a piercing and punchy Saperavi. The Georgian traditional grape, grown in clay soils on the terraced vineyards of the Kakheti region, is the upstart of European reds, and its high acidity and phenolity give it a razor sharp edge, with a sweet finish. This is the Narwhals second quarter, a fine comeback (albeit from a familiar source with Dan scoring twice in much the same manner as his excellent first quarter effort) meant the Narwhals drew within 1 goal at the half, a well poised contest at 4-5.
We enter the second half of our tasting in a similar vein with balance of acidity and body being the order of the day. A hearty Argentinian Malbec of a struggle awaits us in the third quarter, with hints of plum and chocolate. A strong full bodied contest, with quality pit defence and disciplined drop in equal measure held a challenging Sutton team to just 2 goals, with the Narwhals answering with 2 of their own from Dan and Nick. The finest of these two was Nick’s long range bounce shot, combined with the hearty punch of 2 Gamble majors formed a strong middle to this well apportioned offering. 6-7 after 3.
4 wines in already, and the Narwhals are starting to feel the effects of a long evening’s tasting. Perhaps it’s the alcohol causing a haze to set in, or perhaps its just that August holidays have meant leisurely drinking as opposed to effective training for such a wine tasting challenge. Either way, as giggles appear and chairs are fallen off, the pickled Narwhals had put up a strong fight, but now needed an Uber home while trying not to vomit over Pietr in his Prius. There was a final goal for Nick, and a rare Gamble special, but these 2 goals did not make up for a tired defence cracking and 5 Sutton goals finishing the game off to a disappointing 8-12 final score.
Hungover reflections would see this experience as a tale of excellent defence only tiring at the final hurdle, and some good individual moments in attack not quite making up for a lack of effective attack from set play.
Man of the match this week goes to Dan, for 4 well taken goals (almost all of them at the back post). Moment also goes to Dan, for the second goal of the contest, the aforementioned perfectly placed lofted pass to the back post with a strong break and a great finish. Fluffer this week was Matt, who succeeded in letting in a 12m shot just as the quarter expired in truly embarrassing style. 5 Narwhals head to Portugal this week, Oggy, Chris Mann, Zach, Tim and Rob will all be hoping for more success against the Amphibs next week.
Until then, Cheers! And Forza Narwhali!