Round 3- European Crusaders vs USA // Melbourne University Oval // August 13th, 12:00pm
The European Crusaders fell short in round three of the International Cup, losing by 127-points to an impressive USA side.
In sunny conditions, the Americans were quick with the ball and were able to pile on four unanswered goals in the first half of the term. Despite strong efforts to stem the flow, the Crusaders were unable to stop the onslaught and USA finished the quarter 8.4. (52) to the Europeans 0.0. (0).
The Crusaders re-grouped at quarter time and came into the second term with a more defensive mind-set. They were able to limit USA’s scoring ability, halving the opposition’s shots on goal to only four goals for the quarter. Intercept marking from star full-back Coline Duquet and a great smother from ruck Amanda King kept the pressure high on the Americans.
In the half-time huddle, the Europeans went in with a plan to stick to their opponents and to be hard at every contest. Running back out onto the ground with a guard of honour from a local footy side, the Crusaders were able to dig deep. They were once again able to limit USA’s goal scoring to only two majors for the term.
During the third term, the Crusaders were also able to get the ball into their forward half at different stages, with passages of clean ball movement from the backline and through the middle. But the Europeans lacked the final polish and were unable to convert these efforts into shots on goal.
The final term was full of heart for the Crusaders, but they were unable to limit the damage on the scoreboard. The Americans ran away with it, kicking five goals for the quarter to pass the 100-point mark. American Jessica Estrada was impressive with six goals for the match, leading her side to a 19.13. (127) win over a scoreless Crusaders.
Crusaders coach Graham Andrews acknowledged it was a hard game for his side, who were only playing their third game together as a team.
“The Americans moved the ball very well into their forward line and were able to finish off their work,” he said. “They put us under a lot of pressure early on and we really just had to try and even the game out.”
Andrews praised the efforts of his backline, who have been impressive under immense pressure throughout the tournament, but said it was a team effort today.
“Defence has obviously been our standout so far,” Andrews said. “There were a number of hard-earned tackles and a lot of smothers as well.”
“But all of the girls came off spent after the game,” he said.
Crusaders’ captain Rachel Urquhart commended the efforts of the USA side, but she was quick to praise her side’s fight-back from a disappointing start.
“It was a rollercoaster game for us,” she said. “It was very frustrating in the first and second quarters, but we took that half-time break to just calm down and refocus on what our goals were for the day.”
“I think the turnaround in the third and fourth quarters was fantastic,” Urquhart said. “But credit to USA, they’re going to go really far in this competition and they were great opponents.”
While Tuesday’s semi-final is still unconfirmed, it is likely that the European Crusaders will come up against Fiji, another difficult opponent.
“We know Fiji is a very tough, physical team,” coach Graham Andrews said. “They nearly beat Canada and they pushed Great Britain all of the way, so we’ll be anticipating another tough match.”
“But we’ll go out to tackle just as hard as them and obviously, we’ll be looking to score as well,” he said. “We’re going to focus on improving and finishing off this competition as strongly as we can.”
USA: 19.13. (127)
European Crusaders: 0.0. (0)
USA: J. Estrada 6, K. Hemenway 4, C. Smolak 3, L. Kastanek 2, M. Armstrong, C. Hoha, M. Leone, O. Nguyen
European Crusaders: Nil
USA: J. Estrada, K. Hemenway, C. Smolak, L. Kastanek, M. Armstrong, C. Hoha
European Crusaders: C. Duquet, A. Barisic, C. Portal, C. Wood, A. King, L. Gardell
(First published on AFL Europe on August 13th 2017)