Australia showed their fans why they should believe the World Cup is returning to Australia with a 25-8 win over Zambia on the fourth day of the 2019 Adina Polocrossse World cup, the biggest win for any team in the group stages. Both countries were already through to the group stages but this match would decide who came top of the group and face New Zealand in the semi finals. the runner up would face South Africa in the other semi final.
At first it looked like it might be quite a nervy, close run affair. The first chukka only saw two goals, both to the Australians but Zambia and Australia both missed chances. Lauren Sillitoe in the Australian number 1 shirt missed two goals as she seemed to have a racquet malfunction and Kelly Krynauw missed chances for Zambia as she seemed to have horse issues. It was noticeable in their match against Zimbabwe that her horse could get a bit strong at points and it seemed to happen again tonight, meaning that she at one point had to attempt to shoot a goal while going absolutely flat out across the 30 yard area. Nine times out of ten she might have made it but tonight it drifted wide and the Zambians ended the chukka goalless.
The Zambian men made sure it didn’t stay that way for too long. They came firing out the blocks, Damien Harris beating Lance Anderson out the back on the first line out to set up an opening goal for Zambia and they continued in the same way with some great fast paced goals. If the Ladies chukka was a bit cagey this was the opposite, the men were firing on all cylinders as Zambia slammed in goals with Harris and Mikey Krynauw both pulling in some unbelievable balls and linking it up brilliantly. Australia tried to respond, at one point Abbott Grills managed to put in two big tackles in a row to take the ball first off Krynauw and then off Harris and force a turn over. Australia did manage to grab a couple of goals in the chukka, including a brilliant one which involved a sixty metre pass from Lance Anderson to Jimmy Grills, which Grills then finished off with a huge overarm between the posts, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The Australian fans seeming to be warming to overarm goals greatly now that they actually have players who can throw them. It is no longer quite the travesty or cardinal sin it once was, instead when Jimmy Grills or Lauren Sillitoe fire them in huge cheers erupt from all corners of the stands. The chukka ended with Zambia ahead overall by 5-4 as they won the chukka 5-2.
The Ladies returned for chukka three and there had been a switch around for Australia in the number 1 position. Sillitoe and her misfiring stick had gone back to number 2 and Suzette Thomas went to number 1. However still it was a fairly close affair, with 5 goals in total in the chukka. Australia were beginning to get on top though. Lucy Grills was dominating out of line outs on the amazing horse Sailor Moon and Suzette Thomas didn’t even look like missing. However, Kelly Krynauw did manage to get two goals in the chukka and the score at the end of the chukka was 7 all.
The men came back out for chukka 4 and Australia had brought on Will Weston in the number 2 shirt in the place of Abbott Grills. Zambia also switched their numer 2, taking off John Rae and sending on Gordon Rae. However, the bigger change was in the possession and retention statistics. Lance Anderson grabbed more ball out the back and when Zambia did have it they committed errors and fouls than conceded possession back to Australia. Australia captalised on everything, slamming through 5 unanswered goals in the chukka, including a brilliant individual goal from Jimmy Grills, where he pulled in an pretty unbelievable offside pick up aboard the equally unbelievable Berragoon Beaches, before the little dun horse duly charged away from the Zambia defence and took Jimmy over the 30 yard line for him to end the move with what is rapidly becoming his trade mark overarm goal. By the end of the chukka the scoreline looked quite different and Australia were in the ascendancy by 12 goals to 7.
The next two chukkas were basically one way traffic. The Australian ladies pumped in another four goals as Grills, Sillitoe and Thomas combined perfectly. Zambia had changed around, putting Audrey Logan up the front in what could only be considered another sign that Kelly Krynauw and her horse were not having the best day but it made no difference. Indeed the one time Audrey Logan got in the area via a free throw she spilled the ball out of her racquet in front of Lucy Grills who gladly took it off her to go on the attack for Australia again. Australia’s ladies were pretty much flawless, indeed the only concern perhaps for Australian fans was the fact that Beth Hafey did not make an appearance in this match. She was on the bench throughout but was rested, perhaps still feeling some side effects of her fall in training the other day. Though on the evidence of this performance Australia can probably cope with just these three ladies if they have to.
At the start of the sixth and final chukka Australia lead 16-7. Zambia took off Mikey Krynauw for the last chukka and put John Rae up front. Australia rested Jimmy Grills and put Abbott Grills up front. Australia scored 9 goals, Zambia scored 1. It was a destruction that no one was expecting, line out after line out Australia came up with the ball through Lance Anderson or Will Weston and they delivered it to Abbott Grills for him to pump in goals from all angles. There was another 60 metre plus pass from Anderson, this time to the racquet of Abbott Grills. There was also one flat out overarm goal from Grills, just after Jannie Steenkamp (who had joined the comentary team for the latter stages of this match) had said Abbott Grills needed to work on adding that shot to his repertoire. Judging by that goal he is either a very quick learner or he had already been practising it.
The home crowd was ecstatic. The final scoreboard read 25-8 to Australia and they comfortably topped their group, being the only team in either pool to go into the semi finals undefeated. In the semi finals they will take on their neighbours, New Zealand, as they finished second to South Africa in the other pool on goal diference, despite having beaten the regining world champions when they faced them. Frankly it may not matter which team Australia face judging by today’s performance, they are looking very strong.
For Zambia they will have to go away and think about how they can overcome Australia if they should meet them again in the final. Before that though they need to get past their own neighbours South Africa in the other semi final. Neither South Africa or Zambia have looked as good as they did four years ago so it will be an interesting clash. If Zambia can get their women playing their best again then they might have a chance, though it looks like the South African ladies have a better group of horses. The men will be too close to call and some long passes and lots of quick goals are guaranteed. Roll on Saturday!