The fourth day of play from the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup saw the making of another all African final as South Africa deafeated Australia in the first semi final and Zambia beat the UK in the second. All the matches on day four were won reasonably comfortably in the end. The first match of the day saw Zimbabwe versus the USA to decide who would make the 5th/ 6th play off and it was Zimbabwe who lead from the start.
The USA, who sacked their coach after the opening weekend managed to keep it close until the end of chukka four, when the score was 13-9 but the Zimbabwe ladies managed to win their next two chukkas quite comfortably as Suzanne Sargeant won them lots of ball and linked up well with her sister Paula Sparrow in the number 1 shirt. Then in the final chukka Hamish Michael did the same for the Zimbabwean men and Terrance Keith converted the chances to make it 28-13 by the end of the game. The USA didn’t score a goal in the last two chukkas and though both teams were guilty of wasting chances in the game the USA were more guilty.
The second game saw New Zealand beat Ireland to also book their place in the 5th/6th play off and the story was similar. Ireland kept it close and even leveled it up in the third chukka at 9 goals a piece with some great play from Joanne Lavery and Dara Mangan. At the end of the fourth it was 14-13 in favour of New Zealand, with the Irish men matching the New Zealand men 7 goals each at that stage as Aidan McDonagh and Jarrod Richardson traded goals.
However, at that point it started to go wrong for Ireland. Firstly, the New Zealand ladies put in a good six goal chukka to stretch it to 20-15 with Kyla Hill scoring freely as Beth Peaker won her ball out the back and then the New Zealand men carried on with Shane Hill winning more ball out the back. With the score at 24-16 Ireland’s day got even worse as Aidan McDonagh cut too close behind Shane Hill as he tried to get to the goal and caused his own horse to trip and come down on top of him. He was taken off in an ambulance and x-rays revealed a break and a fracture in the top of his arm. Losing one of their star players and the nature of how it happened seemed to cause Ireland’s heads to sink and from then on New Zealand managed to see out the game quite comfortably and increase the lead to win by 35 goals to 18.
The first of the semi finals saw Australia take on South Africa and the feeling was that it would be very close. However, the reality was that South Africa led from the start and by the end of four chukkas they were 16-8 up and starting to pull away. The Australians wasted chances when they had the ball and they weren’t winning as much loose ball as South Africa were. The Australian ladies missed their opening chance as they tried to throw a big underarm shot over Celicia Jacobs, who was marking close to the D to frustrate them. Jannie Steenkamp also intercepted one shot and two passes at point blank range as they tried to put ball over the top of him. The stick speed of Jannie Steenkamp is impressive but the fact Australia were trying to throw passes and shots over him showed they were running out of options as they couldn’t get unfamiliar horses to work in midfield and the area as well as they would like. In return South Africa were missing nothing and their number 1’s were slotting running overarms and underarms from all angles.
Australia improved in the sixth and seven chukkas but it still wasn’t enough and at the end of seventh it was 27-16 in South Africa’s favour. In the final chukka Australia’s men started a late fight back and, with the score at 28-18, Jim Grills was involved in a collision with Jannie Steenkamp. This saw Jim Grills leave the field in an ambulance, though later it was reported he was fine, a free goal was awarded to Australia and Jannie Steenkamp was sent off for two minutes. There was some debate as to whether Steenkamp should have really been sent off as Grills seemed to miss a pick up and then stop on the line of the ball. However, Steenkamp had already given away one free goal for a big t-bone ride off into Abbott Grills in the second chukka and some people thought he should have been sent off for that first ride off so perhaps in the end it evened out. With only two and half minutes left there wasn’t enough time for it to effect the end result but Australia dominated the closing stages and the end score was 28-23.
In the second semi final Zambia defeated the UK but the first chukka suggested the result could be very different as the UK ladies got a perfect start, winning their opening chukka 5 nil as they won nearly all the ball and the couple of chances Zambia got, the UK turned over. However, after that Zambia dominated, their men quickly bought them right back into and their ladies put them in the lead by the end of the third. With every chukka after that they increased their lead and by the end it was 29-18. The UK didn’t make the most of all the possession they had and after the first chukka they couldn’t stop the Zambian ladies winning ball out the back through Lauren Watson in the ladies or Mikey Krynauw snapping it up the front for the men. At first Jason Webb was winning the race out the back for the UK men but after the first men’s chukka Damien Harris started to win as much ball. Damien and James Rae linked very well with Mikey Krynauw, who can just mop up any ball within ten foot of him with his long arms. The UK will be pleased to have made a semi final and they will be keen to have another crack at beating Australia in the 3rd/4th play off, after they lost to them in the group stages by a fair margin, but after chukka 3 today they never looked liked being able to stop Zambia marching on to the final.
The other question that will now be asked within international polocrosse is whether there should be a better way of grading the teams before a World Cup. Zambia were graded eighth and so both the teams in the final have come from the same pool, even though everyone knew they were considerably better than they were four years ago. If they had been graded at 2 or 3 in the world they would have probably been in a pool with Australia and not South Africa.
Tomorrow sees USA take on Ireland in the 7th/ 8th play off and Zimbabwe against New Zealand in the 3rd/ 4th play off. Then on Sunday it’ the 3rd/ 4th play off and the final. We will be bringing you all the action.