Semi-Final Round- European Crusaders vs Fiji // Western Oval, Royal Park // August 15th, 1:00pm
The European Crusaders were much-improved against Fiji, despite going down by 87 points in the International Cup semi-final round.
While the Europeans’ first quarters have been disappointing in previous rounds, today the side was able to gel from the first bounce. In overcast and windy conditions at Royal Park, the Crusaders were able to get the ball into their forward half on a number of occasions throughout the first term.
Moving the ball deep forward, the Crusaders registered their first score of the tournament in a rushed behind point that came off the boot of midfielder Bérengère Portal. A legion of fans along the boundary line erupted at the score.
Alongside a more attacking mind-set, the Crusaders were also able to consolidate their defence, limiting the strong and skilful Fijians to only two goals for the quarter.
The Crusaders quarter-time huddle was jam-packed with players and fans, with the main message from coach Graham Andrews to “rattle” the opposition. In the second term, the Fijians managed to score three majors, but the Europeans had their own shots on goal. Unfortunately, their one strong chance was dashed by an out-on-the-full kick in their forward half.
In the third quarter, the Europeans were able to push offensively while maintaining a strong defence. The Fijians were once again limited to only two goals for the term while another scoring opportunity fell short for the Crusaders.
The final term was full of big moments. In a passage of play midway through the term, the Fijians streamed forward, racking up uncontested possessions, when Crusaders’ midfielder Camille Portal ran down her opponent, stopping a certain shot on goal.
But despite the determination, the game ran away from the Crusaders and the Fijians kicked another four majors for the quarter, finishing with a score of 12.16. (88) to the Crusaders 0.1. (1).
In a great show of comradery, both sides joined together in a huddle after the game, where the Fijians treated the Crusaders to a beautiful rendition of the gospel song, ‘We have overcome.’ Crusaders captain Rachel Urquhart said the display was an “amazing experience”.
Urquhart was also full of praise for her side’s improvement and dedication to the task.
“It was a tough contest from the beginning, but we had so many more chances in the forward 50,” she said. “Our goal today was always to get a goal, but our real focus was on communication and making sure we were talking.”
“It’s always a challenge with our language barriers, but I think we really focused on it today and we were rewarded with it getting down into our forward half so much,” she said.
Crusaders coach Graham Andrews was also impressed with his team’s improved performance.
“The girls got more run-on and we managed to get the ball into the forward line quite a few times,” he said. “We just didn’t quite have the little bit of polish at the end.”
“But I thought it was very promising that we managed to move the ball forward quickly and with some nice fluency,” he said.
While the fixture is unconfirmed, the Crusaders look like they will play Pakistan in the International Cup’s grand final round on Friday at Royal Park. Andrews said the girls will be looking to end the tournament on a high.
“We look forward to a really competitive but good-spirited effort by both teams,” he said. “I’d like to think that we could bang in a few goals, enjoy it and then the girls can go home with something positive.”
Fiji: 12.16. (88)
European Crusaders: 0.1. (1)
Fiji: J. Goodsir 3, I. Ratudina 3, S. Fong 2, M. Tuilevuka 2, L. Wolfgramm, S. Kaukiono
European Crusaders: Nil
Fiji: S. Matakibau, M. Tuilevuka, V. Caginavanua, J. Goodsir, I. Ratudina, S. Fong
European Crusaders: C. Duquet, S. Janjetovic, A.Barisic, C. Portal, A. King, A. Finn
(First published on AFL Europe on August 15th 2017)