Zimbabwe overcame a battling USA side 19-17 to finish third in their pool with the USA in fourth. It was clearly a match both teams felt they could win, having both lost to Australia and Zambia already. It looked initially like Zimbabwe might run away with it but the USA fought themselves back into the game. Zimbabwe must have been suffering flashbacks to their game against Zambia the day before, where they led for most of the match only to lose it in the last chukka.
Zimbabwe started the brighter, their ladies section of Sophie Sargeant, Paula Sparrow and Kirsten Swan (as they gave Suzanne Sargeant a rare chukka off the pitch) got them off to a 4-1 lead by the end of the first as the USA ladies struggled for ball. Their men, who again featured a different line up to the day before with Ross Shand at number 1, Andy Baker at 2 and Danie Swan at 3, then managed to just edge the USA men 4-3 and make the overall score 8-4.
The third chukka saw the arrival of Suzanne Sargeant in the number three shirt for Zimbabwe but also saw the USA ladies get more ball and they worked a couple of nice goals. Zimbabwe still edged it by one goal though and the gap was creeping wider, the scoreboard ticking over to 11-6 by the end of the chukka.
The fourth chukka saw the Zimbabwean men switch around, Danie Swan went to number 1, Graham Keith at number 2 and Andy Baker at number 3. The USA men stuck with their line out from the first chukka, Braxton Hamlin up the front, Robbie Shuttles in the middle and Rahul Desai out the back. The chukka started ominiously for the USA, they actually started with a free throw but lost possession and the Zimbabwe went straight down the other end and scored a quick goal. However, then came a long break in play as the pitch side ambulance had to be called away to treat Beth Hafey, the Australian ladies player. The Australian team were practising close by and Beth had suffered a collision with her team mate Abbott Grills, causing both players to fall and Beth to require treatment. So after a twenty minute break, during which time more medical support arrived, the match restarted.
The break seeemed to help the USA men more than Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe slotted one more quick goal from the first line out but after that it was all USA possession and they made the most of it, with some good passing between all three men and some well taken goals by Braxton Hamlin. Zimbabwe committed a couple of fouls to assist them in getting four quick goals back and make the overall score line 13-10 to Zimbabwe.
The USA travelling support is fairly strong and it was getting more noisy as their team got back into the match. Their mascot, a half naked bald eagle, draped in one American flag and carrying another, charged along one side of the pitch encouraging the crowd to even louder efforts, as “Kids of America” pumped out over the speakers. The eagle also briefly stopped to hug and kiss IPC chief umpire and match referee Stewie Neal (editor’s note: we aren’t sure how Stewie felt about that or whether the eagle was trying to influence him into some favourable decisions for the USA).
The USA Ladies responded strongly in the fifth chukka. Zimbabwe started with a free throw and got a quick goal but after that Megan Waggener and Kat Liner dominated possession and Waggener threw some great goals. Zimbabwe got one penalty goal for a hit to the head of Paula Sparrow when they did have possession but USA won the chukka 4-2 and closed the gaap to one goal with a scoreline of 15-14 at the end of the chukka.
Zimbabwe must have been a bit nervous going into the last chukka. They switched out Andy Baker and put Danie Swan back to number 3 with Ross Shand in the number 1 shirt, while the USA remained unchanged. The opening goal went to USA and Zimbabwean fans must have thought it was a case of deja vu, having lost in very similar circumstances to Zambia. However, though this USA men’s section is good it is not Zambia and the Zimbabwean men were the stronger overall, stretching the lead back out to 18-15 before the USA grabbed another one back. One more goal apiece after that left the final scoreline at 19-17 and confirmed Zimbabwe would finish third in the pool with USA in fourth. Both will go into the bottom half of the draw now, where one of them will play Ireland and one will play the UK or South Africa, depending on what happens in their match today.