The UK defeated the USA in their play off match to decide who went into the 5th/ 6th play off and who went into the 7th/8th play off. In the end it was quite a comfortable victory as the UK stretched out to a 29-16 win over eight chukkas.
The UK fans might have feared their worst nightmare was going to happen though, as the USA ladies came out all guns blazing and got them off to a 4-2 lead. They grabbed most of the ball from the line outs and once Megaan Waggener was in the area there was no stopping her.
The UK men though came out and dominated the second chukka to put themselves 7-5 in the lead. Jason Webb was on flying form all game and the USA had clearly feared his influence, as they put Braxton Hamlin out the back for chukka number 1. Nothing was going to stop Jason Webb today, he made nearly every pick up and caught a lot of ball in the lineout as he set the UK men on their way for a win.
As Braxton Hamlin was out the back Robbie Shuttles was out the front and though he slotted one goal in the second chukka he was then stopped from scoring a second time by Webb who blocked the shot and turned the ball over for a UK free throw.
Up front for the UK, Joel Sics also had a much better game than against South Africa. He seemed to know he could get past the USA number 3’s and so was more relaxed in the area, moving more and creating more space to shoot from. He also shot some very nice angled goals, particularly in the latter stages of the match.
The UK Ladies definitely looked buoyed by the peerformance of their men’s section as they returned to the field. Charlotte Pykett showed some of her best play as they ran in a 6-0 chukka, with Emily Gilfillan and Annemieke Ward behind her winning ball when she couldn’t. They finally looked like they believed they could win.
Another strong chukka from the UK men stretched the lead to 17-7 and it looked like the UK might walk away with it. However the USA do have some top class players and in the fifth chukka Megan Waggener reminded everyone of what she can do. She scored four great goals and though the UK scored three in return it did look like the USA were getting more fired up again.
The sixth chukka went the same way. The USA men won it 4-2 as Rahul Deai picked up a couple of balls from the line outs and Braxton Hamlin, who was now in the number 1 shirt scored some good goals. His first one was a brilliant piece of work. Webb got him pinned near the back line and as Hamlin tried to go round him the ball fell out of his stick. However, Hamlin was quicker that the UK man (editor’s note: which is pretty impressive in itself), grabbed it back and then riding away from the goal threw it backwards between the posts.
At one point the gap got as small as five goals and the UK fans must have feared a USA comeback. The UK men added two goals back before the end of the chukka to make it 22-15 but the USA still had a chance.
However, the UK Ladies snuffed out that chance in the seventh. Charlotte Pykette was on top form and won herself a lot of ball. Kat Liner, who has shown some good work and real promise in the USA number 3 shirt this tournament, tried to stick with her but it was an unequal contest on this occasion. The UK stretched their lead to 26-16.
The men’s section also saw the UK stretch their lead further, though Jason Webb did finally miss a pick up but it was ok because Jono Keen was following through behind him to pick it up instead. Just before the end of the chukka Joel Sics had to be substituted due to a minor horse injury and the UK reshuffled to put Jason Webb up front. He then proceeded to cap off his man of the match performance with a goal in the final few seconds to make the final score 29-16.
For the UK it was a much needed, confidence boosting victory, they have struggled at points this tournament but against the USA they seemed to have more confidence and everything just worked much better. The mistakes that happened in previous matches were for the most part gone and their domination of possession made their lives easier.
For the USA they will be disappointed that they didn’t push the UK closer but they just couldn’t get enough ball to do so. They didn’t make too many mistakes when they had the ball, though they did miss a couple of goals in their men’s section. They have some less experienced players in this team, only three of the team have ever played in a world cup before. They will hope that players like Kat Liner and Rahul Desai, who has shown some good moments, can develop more in the next few years and they can rely less on their two star players in Megan Waggener and Braxton Hamlin.