World Cup semi finals day (also known as Saturday the 27th off April) saw the hosts Australia and the current world champions South Africa progress through to the final of the 2019 Adina Polocrosse World Cup as they defeated New Zealand and Zambia respectively. It also saw the UK and Ireland play off for 5th and 6th, a match the UK won in a repeat of their group game.
Both semi final matches were ultimately fairly straight forward victories, despite the fact that Zambia were previously ranked second in the world and New Zealand had shown how strong they were by defeating South Africa in the group stages.
The first match of the day saw Zambia take on South Africa and the match started with a fairly scrappy and cagey chukka between the two ladies’ sections. It ended 2-1 to South Africa but both teams made mistakes; neither ladies’ section have yet looked as strong as in this world cup as in 2015.
The men’s section saw Zambia start the better as Damien Harris and Mikey Krynauw continued the good form they have shown in this tournament while South Africa made a couple of mistakes. By the end of the chukka Zambia lead 6-5.
However, the South African ladies again edged the third chukka to level it up at 8 all and then the South Africa’s men won the fourth to lead 12-11, despite Graham Maclarty missing a free shot at goal, much to the shock of him and everyone else.
At some point it always felt like there would be a decisive ladies’ chukka and it came in the fifth. Four years ago you would have bet on it being Zambia’s ladies who drew ahead but this time around they have looked weaker; struggling with horses and not winning the ball or finding the goal posts with their previous regularity. And so it was in the fifth, as Zambia and their horses both tired, South Africa’s ladies moved up a gear and pushed their team out to a 4 goals lead. Natalie Maclarty in the number 3 shirt beat Lauren Watson out the back consistently and linked up well with Caley Higgs to pull them away to a 16-12 lead.
From then on it was always going to be hard for Zambia, who apparently came into the game with only 11 horses left sound from their original pool of 16. The men tried to respond and started well, with Zambia getting the opening goal after Damien Harris stole the ball off Graham Maclarty as he tried to bounce into the goal scoring area behind Harris’ horse. Harris acrobatically reached backwwards and poked the ball as it rose back up, making Maclarty miss the bounce and Harris mopped up the ball to go on the attack for Zambiaa. However, after that South Africa’s men had a good chukka, throwing some good passes and the lead increased to 19-13. Zambia didn’t seem to get the benefit of the doubt from the umpires as well, at one point Maclarty seeming to T-bone Harris but the foul was awarded against Harris for crossing the line, even though Maclarty didn’t have the ball. By the end of the chukka it was 19-13 to South Africa
After this chukka it became clear there was really no way back for the Zambians, they continued to fight but South Africa were now in the ascendency, with fresher horses and the lead stretched out to be 30-17 by the end of the game. Zambia might grumble about umpire calls and horses but South Africa played better on the day and deserved to go through.
The second semi final was realistically over even earlier on, as Australia won the opening chukka 6-0 and after that New Zealand were always chasing the game. New Zealand deviated from their normal Ladies’ line up and instead of having Beth Peaker at number 3 they played her at number 1, with Kyla Hill starting off in the number 3 position and later moving to number 2. As they have played Australia four times recently in test matches, they must have had a particular reason for doing this but it certainly didn’t seem to produce the desired effect and Lucy Grills won ball out the back and Lauren Sillitoe converted it for a commanding lead by the end of chukka 1.
After chukka 1 New Zealand’s ladies did keep it closer but Australian ladies won every chukka and overall they won their half of the match 15-4. The New Zealand ladies didn’t look as good as they had against South Africa, they made too many mistakes and were too slow to convert once they were in the area; early on in chukka 3 Beth had to work around the area for a couple of minutes before she managed to find a shot round Lucy Grills.
In the men’s it was a bit more even, Australia won the second chukka by a goal, New Zealand won the fourth chukka by a goal and they drew the eighth. The sixth chukka went Australia’s way as they outscored New Zealand 5-2, in what was a fairly error prone chukka. At the end off the match the scoreboard read 29-15 to Australia and they were through to their first final in twelve years, much to the delight of their home crowd.
The final match of the day, which was played under floodlights, saw the UK take on Ireland for 5th and 6th. These two teams had met already in the pool games and that match had gone the way of the UK by six goals. Ireland were looking for revenge but it was not to be, the UK had a strong opening chukka and got off to a 5-2 lead. That set the tone for the match really as the UK gradually built on that lead and ended up winning 26-17.
Ireland will be annoyed by the amount of ball and chances they missed; too many pick ups were run over and too many passes dropped for them to really threaten. The UK made far fewer mistakes and will be pleased with the performance of their players. Charlotte Pykett and Jason Webb were both their usual consistent selves and produced a few moments of brilliance. Emily Gilfillan had a good match out the back for the UK ladies, snapping ball in the line out early on and then winning more on the floor towards the end of the match.
For the UK men Joel Sics was good up front for the first three chukkas and Jono Keen finally got to show what he can do in a number 3 shirt as well at the end of the match, after the UK switched Jason Webb to number 1 for the final chukka. Keen won some good bal out the back and delivered it to Webb for him to slot between the posts. Jono Keen also had a good previous chukka in the number 2 shirt , where again he won ball and delivered it to the number 1 in Sics.
The result meant the UK finished 5th while Ireland were a place behind in 6th. The UK have dropped a place since 2015, when they finished 4th, while Ireland have gained two places as they previously finished 8th. The UK never really looked like beating the two top four sides they faced in New Zealand and South Africa so 5th is a fair result for them. Ireland actually beat New Zealand but their consistency is a real problem and so finishing 6th is probably as much as they could have hoped for.