CUMBRIAN Olympic hopefuls Chloe Wilcox and Alex Rutlidge helped GB women to seventh place at the European Championships in Eindhoven.

The women represented the first British team to compete at the championships since 1997 with eight teams contesting a round-robin of two groups before the knockout matches decided the final positions.

GB opened against major championship regulars Hungary, who lifted the world title in 2005. Despite forging an early advantage the side were 8-4 down at half time.

While Rutlidge helped keep Hungary at bay, Wilcox scored a penalty for GB who trailed 15-7 approaching the final quarter, but their opponents were ruthless in winning 19-9.

Tough opposition continued as GB came up against champions Russia.

Several efforts rebounded off the posts for the Brits, who put in a much improved performance, but they eventually went down 15-10.

In their final group game, GB had to defeat the reigning Olympic champions The Netherlands to reach the quarter-finals.

GB had taken an early lead but the Dutch worked their way into the match and ran out 12-6 winners.

The girls had to pick themselves up to fight against Germany for seventh, but went into the match in high spirits having improved through the group with each game.

Wilcox was again on the score sheet as she scored two goals to put GB 10-7 ahead, while Rutlidge was one of five British players excluded.

Germany fought their way back to send the match to extra-time but GB started on top and built a 13-10 lead to secure seventh.

Wilcox said: “It was really promising for the team and we were happy with our seventh place. It was the first time we had qualified since 1997 and the best in the world are all based in Europe so to get into the top eight was really good for us.

“We hadn’t played officially since September and were a bit rusty but it was a good to score a few goals. I just wish I could have got a few more to help the team.”

The team will fly to Australia for a three-week training camp on Saturday before they compete in Italy at the Champions League for Manchester and Liverpool in March.