The fifth day of the Championships threatened to be an anti climax after the excitement of the Masters finals yesterday but it was not to be as the final rounds of group games started and there were some exciting and important contests.
First up the Victorian Senior Women took on Queensland. Both sides had no hope of making the final but there was a lot of pride at stake and both teams were determined not to end the Nationals without a win. Queensland started the better and lead 14-12 going into the last chukka but then Victoria produced a great chukka with Jess Jolly at number 3 linking up brilliantly with Liz Semmens at number 1 to win it 16-14.
In the other Senior Women’s match of the day New South Wales took on Western Australia. This was truly a match with little purpose as both teams had made the final anyway. However, both teams played hard and were determined to win and it was Western Australia who ultimately won, in more ways than one. Not only did they win the match they will also be secretly delighted that Alison Mathie’s horse, Mathies Seashell, picked up an injury and Mandy Smith had to be subbed off in the final chukka due to an injury as well, leaving NSW to finish the match with only 2 players on the field. With all of this going WA’s way they must now fancy their chances in the final. NSW fans were left complaining as to why this match was even played and you have to have some sympathy with them, especially if it means the final on Sunday is one sided.
As well as these dead rubbers there were also some important matches which did affect who made the finals. In the Senior Mixed WA took on Queensland in the knowledge that a win would guarantee them a place in the final. However it was not to be as they seemed to make some strange tactical decisions and didn’t play their strongest team throughout, apparently due to a desire to rest players for the final. The teams were 7 all at the start of the 4th Chukka but then it all went badly wrong. The Queensland men got on top and WA didn’t help themselves by giving away 2 free goals for head hits. Then the Queensland ladies carried on the good work in the 5th and though WA reshuffled in the 6th Chukka it didn’t seem to do any good and they ultimately lost 18-8. They now have to sit and sweat on the result between Queensland and Tasmania tomorrow to see if they make the final. If Queensland score enough goals (a victory is fairly likely) then they will go through instead of WA.
Tasmania themselves had an excellent day today as they recorded their first win of the championships in the Senior Mixed against South Australia. They started badly with their ladies going down 5-1 in the first chukka and their fans hearts must have sunk. however then out came their men and with some great play from Matthew Howard and Aiden Nunn they turned the game around and made it 7-6. SA fought back in the 5th chukka and levelled it up at 13 all early on in the fifth but then Tasmania pressed the peddle again and ran out 17-13 winners. They were clearly delighted to record a win, apparently their first at as a state at the Nationals since 1990, hopefully it means the future is bright for Tasmania. Their Under 21 Mixed team almost made it 2 wins for the days but after fighting hard all game they eventually went down 16-14 to the Northern Territory.
Northern Territory also nearly caused an upset in the Senior Men’s. They matched WA early on in their match and had them at 9 all in the 3rd chukka. However then WA came out firing and despite the Territory continuing to battle till the end WA did slightly start to run away with it in the last and ultimately won 24-15.
Elsewhere in the Senior Men Victoria took on Queensland, with Queensland determined to clinch third place in the division, after the disappointment of losing to WA and NSW, and Victoria determined to record their first win. The early stages went to Queensland and they look like they might run away with it as Michael Dillon and Chris Lynas linked up well. However, then Victoria changed their tactics and started playing a quick passing game with lots of long balls. This seemed to do the trick and they came back into it, with Ricky Smith again producing a great display at number 1. They levelled it up in the fourth chukka but then it slipped away slightly in the fifth.A big display was needed to pull it back and win it in the final chukka and unfortunately Victoria couldn’t quite manage it, with Clayton Sargood getting the ball a few times and pumping an extra couple of goals to win 25-22.
Victoria also suffered in the first Senior mixed game of the day as they went down in a convincing 21-13 defeat to NSW, who confirmed their place in the Senior Mixed final with this win.
NSW also confirmed their place in the Junior Open final with a good 22-10 win over WA. They will face either Northern Territory or Queensland in that final, depending on who wins their match tomorrow. Queensland won 17-10 against Victoria today while NT won 16-14 against Tasmania (as previously mentioned).
NSW will also feature in the Under 24 women final after they beat Queensland 19-11, condemning Queensland to bottom spot in the division in the process. Their opponents will be Victoria after they beat WA quite convincingly by 20 goals to 11.
The finals are beginning to have a slightly similar theme as NSW also made sure of their places in the Under 21 men’s with a win over WA by 17 goals to 13 and in the Junior Mixed final, despite losing to Queensland 16-14. Queensland will be their opponents in both these finals, they won their Under 21 Men match against 27-7 against Victoria.
The only final that NSW might not be involved with is the Under 21 Mixed, they went down to Queensland today 17-12 and this means that they have to beat NT tomorrow to progress, failure would see NT themselves go through. Elsewhere in the Under 21 mixed today, Victoria beat SA 15-8 to get their first points of the campaign. The two teams also faced each other in the Junior mixed but this time it was SA who emerged victorious by 14-11 to leave Victoria rooted to the bottom of the division.
Tomorrow see the final 9 matches of the group stages but only three can have any effect on who makes the finals, they are the matches between NT and NSW in the Under 21 mixed, the match betwen NT and Queensland in the Junior Open and the match between Queensland and Tasmania in the Senior Mixed. After these matches are over it is Finals time and the finals of the Junior Mixed (Queensland versus NSW), the Under 24 Women (NSW versus Victoria) and the Under 21 Men (Queensland versus NSW) will be played in the afternoon.