Dunfermline Water Polo Club 16 Portobello 15

WHEN some of sport's greatest rivals go head-to-head, drama, excitement, nerves and fiercely-competitive play are usually guaranteed.

In addition, they can also result in a season-defining outcome and, in Scottish water polo, clashes between Dunfermline and Portobello are as eagerly anticipated as rivalries such as Spain's 'El Clasico' between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The two clubs have a rich history of success and, when it comes to deciding the destiny of the senior men's Scottish National League, their meetings are more often than not the defining fixtures.

Having drawn 9-9 at Edinburgh's Royal Commonwealth Pool in February, they went head-to-head at Carnegie Leisure Centre for a second time this year in the knowledge that the winner would put themselves in pole position to claim the 2019 crown.

Dunfermline, league winners four times in the last eight years, started well in an end-to-end match in which tactics, impressive skill and physicality – some of which fell foul of the officials – were to the fore.

The hosts edged the opening period 5-4, in which goalkeeper Thomas Cameron – who has received a call-up to the GB men's under-19 squad that are preparing for the 2020 European qualifiers (see story above) – produced a couple of excellent saves, which was to be a feature throughout the game.

A topsy-turvy clash was turned on its head before the half-time interval as the visitors netted eight goals to Dunfermline's three to lead 12-8.

But, after a pep-talk from coach Davie Baxter, the hosts responded and an improved defensive showing restricted Portobello to just two goals in the third period, while scoring five themselves, to ensure there was just one goal in it moving into the final period.

With tension among the crowd gathered around the pool at its height, Dunfermline pulled level and, after the teams traded another goal apiece, it was the hosts who grabbed the decisive goal as the clock ticked towards time-up.

After a breathless game, in which both goalkeepers produced fine displays and saw the woodwork being struck, Baxter praised his players for their second-half fightback.

"It was a rollercoaster – the proverbial game of two halves," he told Press Sport.

"We know it's always tough against them, but we lost our discipline in the second period and lost eight goals. To give credit to the boys, in the second half we really picked it up.

"They listened, took their chances, worked very hard and came back into the game. So, from being four or five goals down, to turn that around and win the game is superb, especially in a league decider."

Baxter continued: "We lost 12 goals in the first half but only three in the second, and that's what turned it around for us.

"Credit to our goalie Thomas – he's a young keeper coming through and it's a big boost for the team when you see your keeper making those saves. It gives you confidence to get up the pool.

"Whoever comes out on top in these games generally, unless there's a real shock result, will win the league. We drew at Portobello so we knew we had to win this here."

Twin brothers Darren and Chris Campbell are two of the team's most experienced players and have set their sights on Scottish Cup glory in June.

Since winning the trophy in 2014, they have been runners-up on each of the last four occasions, and Chris said: "Hopefully we can win the Scottish Cup now. We've not won it for a few years, so that's probably bigger for us than the league, so we want to win that this time."

Darren added: "We won the league last year and, without any hiccups, we'll win it again this year.

"Porty is the main game for us and to get one over them is a good feeling. It gives us confidence and we know we can beat them."