Grand Final Round- European Crusaders vs Pakistan // Western Oval, Royal Park // August 18th, 10:00am
The European Crusaders achieved their first win in the last game of the International Cup, defeating Pakistan by an impressive 58 points.
In freezing but mostly sunny conditions at Royal Park, the Crusaders were on the ball from the start. Despite going goalless throughout the tournament, Crusaders’ co-captain Bérengère Portal was able to find space and kick her side’s first goal for the competition within the opening minutes of the game. As expected, the crowd, players, and those on the bench were far from quiet at the score, jumping up and down, hugging and cheering at the achievement.
Once the first goal was out of the way, the others came easier. Portal started a solid day, booting hers and the Crusaders’ second goal for the term while the Pakistanis struggled to get the ball out of their backline. While first quarters have been difficult in their past games, the Crusaders were confident and capable against Pakistan, and went into the quarter-time break leading, 2.5. (17) to a scoreless opposition.
The Europeans were upbeat going into the second term and continued their dominance in an unbridled fashion. While they were inaccurate in front of goal as a result of some gusty winds, they were able to lock the ball into their forward half, managing six scoring opportunities for the term. They finished the quarter with a goal from Marine Assemat and another from Portal, her third for the game.
The third term was the most prolific quarter for the Crusaders. While the Pakistanis tried to push the ball forward, the Crusaders’ strong backline was able to deflect and rebound any attempts. The Europeans were once again able to lock the ball up forward, with Portal kicking her fourth goal for the match. Naima Ait El Mouden and Mathilde Combes also contributed with a goal each.
The Crusaders went into the last quarter with a message from coach Graham Andrews to “finish off strong”. While the quarter had less scoring attempts from the Crusaders, Pakistan was able to register their first score for the game, and the tournament, with a goal from Ghazla Amir. The Pakistani girls were exuberant in their celebration, and in a show of great sportsmanship, the Crusaders cheered and celebrated alongside them.
The final goal of the game came off the boot of Crusader Ana Barisic, with a classy snap shot. The siren went, with the Crusaders finishing off their tournament to the tune of 8.16. (64) to Pakistan’s 1.0. (6). With great passion and enthusiasm, the Crusaders were able to send off their comp by singing their song after the siren for the first time.
Crusaders co-captain Rachel Urquhart said the long-awaited win was well-deserved.
“What a way to finish,” she said. “I think it was just outstanding from the girls to finally get to really show their presence in the forward line.”
“The goals were amazing today,” she said. “To see Bee (Bérengère Portal) dominating in the forward line was fantastic.”
Urquhart was also proud of her team’s sportsmanship when they celebrated Pakistan’s first and only goal.
“We know what it’s like to be in their position,” she said. “We just love helping anyone play footy and that was an example of it today.”
Crusaders coach Graham Andrews was also quick to praise his side after a tough couple of weeks.
“Both teams have had difficult tournaments,” he said. “We wanted to get off to a good start and we managed to do that.”
“I thought the girls fought on pretty well throughout the game and it was a solid victory in pretty tricky conditions,” he said. “And it was just great to see some of the forwards get into the action.”
Urquhart said the tournament has been a “whirlwind experience” for the Crusaders’ players, most of whom had never even met each other until two weeks ago.
“It’s been an experience I don’t think we’ll ever forget,” she said. “It’s not often in life that you get to represent your country or represent the whole of Europe.”
European Crusaders: 8.16. (64)
Pakistan: 1.0. (6)
European Crusaders: B. Portal 4, M. Combes, N. Ait El Mouden, M. Assemat, A. Barisic
Pakistan: G. Amir
European Crusaders: B. Portal, L. Gardell, M. Assemat, M. Combes, A. Barisic, C. Portal
Pakistan: G. Amir, M. Ahmad, A. Habib, S. Bano, C. Mushtaq, N. Ul Nisa
(First published on AFL Europe on August 19th 2017)