The first match of day two of the Adina Polocrosse World Cup saw a local derby between the UK and Ireland. Both teams were coming off the back of defeats on day one and both desperately needed a win to keep any hopes of a semi final place alive. The UK had a bad day at the office on day 1 against New Zealand, while Ireland had a tough match against South Africa but seemed to take some positives from the way they played.
These two teams have played each other fairly regularly over the years, not really surprising given they are only the width of the Irish sea apart. The last test match series in 2018 saw the UK win the Men’s and the Irish win the Ladies’. In the last four world cups they have played each other three times and the UK have won two of those matches, they lost in 2003 but won on golden goal in 2011 and then won in 2015. However, since then the UK have seen one of their best ever female players, Debbie Harris, cross over the Irish sea permenantly and play for the Irish team. So with Debbie taking on her old team and the knowledge that a win would mean there was still a chance of a semi final spot there was plenty of tension in the air as the two teams prepared for the first line out.
The Irish opted not to aactually start Debbie Harris, a slightly surprising decision but their opening ladies chukka still looked pretty strong as Dara Mangan, Ruth Shanahan and Joanne Lavery combined to give them a 4-2 lead.
However, in chukka 2 the UK men found the extra gear and consistency they had been missing yesterday, Joel Sics finally started to grab ball and fire in goals like the UK fans knew he could and Jason Webb was his normal consistent self as he pulled in the ball out the back and delivered it to Joel. By the end of chukka 2 the UK had a 8-4 lead as they had fired in 6 unanswered goals. the Irish men had a couple of chances but they didn’t take them, as Seb Chambers, who was in the number 1 shirt today despite not having played there yesterday, fired their only shot wide,
The Irish then brought on Debbie at number 1 for chukka 3 but she couldn’t close the gap, the chukka ended 3 all. Debbie did produce a couple of great moments, including one when she did very well to pull in a low pass from Dara Mangan in midfield, then fought her way through the UK players to the thirty yard line, bounced over the line but then couldn’t regather the ball till just before the backline. As her horse’s foot hung in the air over the back line she flicked the ball backwards, slammed in the big turn and made it back to the ball just before the UK number 3 Kerry Bean, pulled in a massive offside pick up and immediately wheeled and shot a goal. However, Charlotte Pykett was also scoring well at the other end and at the end of the chukka it was 11-7 to the UK.
The next men’s chukka was not as bad for the Irish as the first but still wasn’t great. they switched around their players but nothing seemed to be quite working for them. Connor Doyle moved into the number 1 shirt but he was given a very hard time by Jason Webb while Joel Sics at the other end still scored three goals despite the pressure of Seb Chambers. Ireland did grab one before the end of the chukka but the scoreline had crept out to 14-8.
The next Ladies chukka saw Joanne Lavery return to the Irish number 1 shirt and she threw a couple of great over arm goals but Charlotte Pykett and the UK Ladies matched her goal for goal and the chukka ended 3 all.
With a six goal gap going into the last it seemed unlikely the Irish men could pull it back. They put Luke Brandon up front, who had played well against South Africa the day before and the goal count did increase with Stephen Nuzum and Seb Chambers working better behind him but the UK also played a good last chukka, Jono Keen in particularly came into his own in the number 2 shirt as he linked up well with Jaason Webb, carried a lot of ball and fed Joel for three more UK goals to keep the gap at 6 goals. The final score line was 20-14, meaning the UK still have a chance at making the semi finals, although they would have to beat South Africa on Thursday to do it.
However, regardless of that the UK were clearly relieved to get a win and play a lot better after the manner of their defeat to New Zealand. For Ireland, the disappointment was clear and they will rue the missed chances and the overall performance in their men’s section. Their best chukka was their last and perhaps they will wonder if they should have used that combination of players earlier on in the match. However, they will take some comfort from the fact they actually won the Ladies half of the match by 10 goals to 8 but they need to do more if they want to climb higher than the 8th place they achieved in 2015.