In the first two test matches between Australia and the UK, the UK went down by 29-15 and then 23-19. However, there were many positives to be gained over the two matches, not least the closeness of the second test where the UK stayed near to the Australians throughout and went into the final chukka only down by two goals. Unfortunately, the Australian men played a strong last chukka to drag the gap out to four but the UK men battled hard and it was a vast improvement on their performance from the first test. The only other team to get near to Australia in recent years was South Africa who went down 24-19 to them in the World Cup semi final last year.
The UK ladies played brilliantly to run out winners in their half of the tests, winning by 1 goal in the first and 10-7 in the second. Sophie Lodder in the number 1 shirt was on excellent dform on both days though ironically she made more mistakes and missed more goals in the second test, which the ladies won more comfortably. Sophie had the huge job of trying to fill the boots of the absent Shelley King, who has been the UK ladies number 1 of choice for the past five years. Much to the relief of all the UK fans Sophie stepped up to the plate and played two wonderful games, throwing goals from all angles and linking up very well with Debbie Harris at number 3.
As well as linking well with Sophie in attack Debbie Harris was very strong in defence and finished both games in the number three position. In the first test Sarah Simkin started at number three but after two chukkas Debbie switched into that position and Sarah went to the number two spot, which is her more traditional role for the UK. Despite Debbie doing sterling work in defence UK coach Greg Gloyn put Lucy Shell in at number three for the first chukka of the second test, with Sarah at 2 and Sophie at 1. The UK ladies went down 3-1 in the first and Greg reshuffled the team before the second, bringing Debbie in at three. Lucy came back later on for Sarah in the number 2 position and that is were she seems to fit better and it might well be that Greg keeps Debbie at three for the third and fourth tests and alternates between Sarah and Lucy in midfield.
The Australian ladies played beautiful polocrosse, and made both matches very close and exciting, but they do seem to lack the physical edge of the UK. In the first test Kylie Dowling played very well at number 1 and Suzette Thomas likewise at 3 but in the second test Kylie did not feature at all, Ross Shepherd sticking with Jodie Tiver at 1 throughout the match, and the Australians did seem to miss her at times.
The UK men looked nervous in the first test and mistakes crept into their game at points. For the first test Greg Gloyn opted to play the big man Greg “The Sarge” Sargeant at number 1 and put Martin Brookes in at 2 and Guy Robertson in at 3. However the first chukka did not go well for them as the Australians turned on the style with Hayden Turnbull being on devastating form at the back of the line out and Troy Henry playing well up front with Guy, who is a better attacking 3 than he is in defence, unable to get a grip on him in the 30 yard area. For the other chukkas Greg switched the team around as he tried to find the best combination. He left Greg Sargeant at 1 for the whole match and after a slightly nervous looking start on his UK debut he did his job well, not missing any shots or making any big errors. Martin and Guy switched around in the number 3 role but neither seemed to get a solid grip on the Australian number ones, Troy Henry and Rob Sibley, in the thirty yard area and also they often looked second best out the back of line outs, particularly against Will Weston, who was on unbelievable form for both tests. Hamish Michaels came in for two chukkas in the number 2 shirt and of the UK men he looked the best, hunting ball tirelessly and linking well with Greg in the number one shirt.
In the second test Greg Gloyn decided a complete change was in order and he sent Guy Robertson into the number 1 position and pulled Greg back into number 2 shirt. Martin Brookes started at number 3 and Hamish swapped in for him in the third and fourth chukkas. Guy did a far better job at one than he had at three the day before, scoring goals from all angles and hunting ball hard in midfield. Greg Sargeant is rarely seen in the number 2 role for his club side, Arden, but actually it seemed to work well. His strength and physical presence in midfield seemed to unsettle the Australians at time and he never stopped chasing ball and players all over the pitch. The UK number 3 had the hardest job in the world because Troy Henry and Rob Sibley seem to be able to throw goals through the smallest of gaps and Will Weston is probably actually faster than lightening out the back of the line up and only seemed to miss about one pick up over both test matches. In the third chukka in particular Hamish seemed to get a good grip on the match, taking a few balls off Will at the back of the line out and making Rob Sibley work very hard for goals in the area.
Pick of the Players
Australian Ladies: Suzette Thomas; she had a very hard job in marking up Sophie Lodder but made her work for nearly all her goals and in the second test made her miss a few
Australian Men: Will Weston; unbelievably good pick ups at the back of the line out and threw some beautiful passes to his number ones
UK Ladies: Sophie Lodder; threw some brilliant goals and at times held onto the ball in midfield despite enormous pressure from the Austalians
UK Men: Hamish Michael; looked the most composed of all the UK men, worked very hard in both the number two and three positions and seemed to make very few mistakes. Also made some great pick ups.