The shocks continued on day three of the Adina Polocrosse World Cup as Ireland overcame New Zealand, the team who the day before beat the current World Champions South Africa. New Zealand went into the match as strong favourites and Ireland as big underdogs but that probably suited Ireland better, they are a team who seem to play better in that position.
The first chukka was a sightly scrappy affair with Ireland coming off just second best. They did get the opening goal after Kyla Hill missed her first chance. Dara Mangan just hung back in the area and guarded the D, Kyla tried to throw a shot over her which Dara intercepted and Ireland went down the other end and Debbie Harris opened the scoring. However, New Zealand responded with two quick goals before conceding a penalty goal. New Zealand added two more before Ireland got one back through a free shot at goal. Both Ireland and New Zealand missed a couple of pick ups in the chukka and neither ladies section looked like they were absolutely firing on all cylinders yet.
The men’s first chukka saw Ireland come out with the line up more similar to how they ended their game against the UK. Luke Brandon was in the number 1 shirt, Conor Doyle at 2 and Seb Chambers aat number 3. New Zealand put Jason White up the front instead of Jarrod Richardson and had the normal comination of Russsel Tye and Beau Moore behind him. Ireland got the chukka off to a good start with a quick goal after Seb Chambers snapped it in the line out and then went one ahead after Beau Moore body hit Luke Brandon for a free goal when he was next in the goal scoring area.
It still wasn’t an error free affair, Beau Moore missed a pick up to show he is not completely infallible and both him and Seb Chambers lost their racquets in tackles at points, though both times the ball ended up making its way to another team member so they didn’t actually lose the ball. Three South Africans couldn’t get the ball off Beau Moore in their game but Seb Chambers took the whole racquet off him with one big tackle in this chukka. The men’s section traded another goal apiece to make it 6-5 to Ireland before there was a break in play when Beau Moore’s horse pulled up lame and had to be checked over and substituted off. Russel Tye took on the number 3 shirt and Jarrod Richardson came in at number 2. Despite being forced into that change New Zealand levelled it up and then went one up before Ireland scored one more goal to make it 7 all.
The ladies sections returned to the field and Ireland had made a change. They brought on Joanne Lavery at number 1 and Debbie Harris dropped back to number 2. This change around seemed to do the trick, the error count from the New Zealand women increased while Ireland’s one dropped. Before there was even an opening goal for Ireland, New Zealand had had the ball twice but once Kyla Hill carried it over the line as she attempted to pick up on the edge of the area and then the second time Beth Peaker attempted to pass through two Irish players, losing the ball in the process.
Ireland put in three unanswered goals in the chukka as Joanne Lavery took all her chances and Debbie Harris dominated the midfield, snapping the ball twice in line outs and at one point man marking Kyla Hill hard in midfield for about a minute, while Beth Peaker had to ride around her 30 yard area looking for a pass out. When the pass finally came, Debbie was perfectly positioned to drive Kyla and her horse under the ball, meaning she misssed the pass and Ireland regained possession. At the end of the chukka Ireland lead 10-7, much to the surprise of the crowd.
The men’s chukka saw the return of Beau Moore and saw New Zealand’s men get their team back into contention. They put in three quick goals and levelled up the score as Beau Moore and Jason White combined well. After that Ireland did fight back with Seb Chambers and Luke Brandon getting some ball from the line outs. However, New Zealand did keep the goal count ticking over and won the chukka 6-3, making an overall score 13-13.
The final ladies chukka was a very hard fought affair, though not particularly high scoring. Ireland got the opening goal but New Zealand levelled it up and then went one ahead. However, they missed a chance to make it a gap of two after Kyla Hill missed a bounce going into the area. Dara Mangan mopped it up and went down the other end. She threw a low pass to Joanne Lavery, who somehow got down and hung onto it in the corner and then somehow wriggled out of the corner past Beth Peaker to slot home an equaliser. Ireland got a penalty from the next line out, then lost the ball from a loose pass but managed to get it back. Illegal circular swinging from Beth Peaker won Ireland a penalty going into the goal area scoring but they couldn’t take it before the hooter sounded, so it carried over to the men’s final chukka and the ladies ended on 15 all.
Given what had happened happened in the previous men’s chukka you would probably have bet on New Zealand to win it from here but this was an unpredictable match to say the least and Ireland’s blood was clearly up. Seb Chambers was pushing as hard as he could, desperately trying to deal with Beau Moore at the back of the line out and putting pressure on Jason White on the line and in the area whenever he could. Ireland converted the initial free throw into a goal and then New Zealand got ball. However, on the first attempt Seb Chambers did enough to make Jason White misss the bounce and then grabbed the ball for Ireland.
With a one goal lead he didn’t rush to clear his area but did so after a short ride around and then headed down field to deliver the ball to Luke Brandon. Ireland’s fans started to dream the upset could really be on, they were a goal up and had ball in the goal scoring area. However, if there was to be one flaw in Luke Brandon’s game in this match, it was the number of times he got tackled. He got tackled at least once in every chukka, twice losing his entire stick, and on this occassion Beau Moore got hold of him in the area and took the ball off him. New Zealand went on the attack again but this time Jason White dropped the pass in the area and Seb Chambers grabbed it again. He delivered it to Luke Brandon, who then suffered a bad ride off from White going into the goal scoring area for a free goal to make it 17-15.
New Zealand were still fighting, they got ball again from a turnover by Moore on Brandon, after Chambers had won ball well out of the lineout, but this time Jason White couldn’t hold onto the pass due to the pressure and presence of Chambers on his shoulder. He then head hit Chambers trying to get the ball back off him.
Ireland had a three goal lead but still New Zealand kept coming, they got ball from the line out and this time they did convert it. Ireland grabbed ball again with Chambers snapping it in the line out but his pass to his number 2 Conor Doyle went astray and New Zealand turned it over. They charged down field and Jason White converted it but then the hooter sounded and Ireland had held on for a victory.
No one could pretend this was a perfect, faultless match. New Zealand did not look as slick as they did against South Africa but actually Ireland probably made as many errors.
Ireland disrupted New Zealand better than South Africa did, Seb Chambers had a brilliant game in the number 3 shirt, winning more ball than anyone thought he would and taking on the New Zealand men in midfield time after time and coming out on top as they threw timber at him from all angles. The Irish Ladies were all strong, they definitely had an impact on Kyla Hil, who struggled at points to find a quick way round Dara Mangan and does not seem confident enough to attempt an overarm goal when Mangan hung back and defended the goal more deeply. Ireland’s coaching team had clearly done their home work, as this weakness had also been visible against South Africa.
New Zealand which probably return Jarrod Richardson to the number 1 shirt for their next match, they obviously decided to rest him and his horses for this one as he only featured as a number 2 in this match. Maybe his presence up front would have made a difference for New Zealand but ultimately nothing should be taken away from Ireland, they fought like tigers throughout the whole match, always chasing and harrying the New Zealand team and forcing mistakes.
New Zealand will still progress to the semi finals, Ireland will still go into the bottom half of the draw along with either the UK or South Africa, to face either Zimbabwe or the USA. Before this match those teams might have thought Ireland would be the easier option, now they will be less sure.
If New Zealand beating South Africa was an upset then this was a shock of earthquake like proportions and we can only imagine how hard the Irish fans (and posssibly the team) partied afterwards.