Contributed by: Troy Thompson
The Semi Final between the Falcons and the Revolution would see the winner go on to contest the Final at the MCG on Saturday. Both sides had impressed throughout the tournament but it was the undefeated Falcons who would go in favourite and come out of today unscathed. Pictured left is famous AFL personality Robert "Dipper" DiPierdomenico with New Zealand's Steve Froggatt.
As the sides lined up for their respective national anthems the atmosphere at Murphy Reserve, and the importance of this match could be felt by all present. The Falcons so far undefeated and feted by many as the 2005 International Cup champions already, taking on the Revolution who had just two days before lost the bragging rights as equal favourites after a one point loss to the skilful Mosquitoes. Only one of these teams would be playing on Saturday afternoon on the hallowed MCG turf, for the chance to hold the cup aloft. As the anthems were belted out the pride could be seen on all the players’ faces, but the Revolution still had to face down the Falcon’s Haka. While other teams in the cup have lined up across the ground to face the Kiwis in preceding matches the US lined up arm in arm perpendicular. This threw the Falcons somewhat and there were calls of “no respect” from some of their players. Alignments were sorted out, the Haka completed and the teams began to disperse but this was momentarily halted when a number of players from both teams were involved in pushing and chesting each other.
After this show of strength the match got underway with the Falcons getting the first break from the centre after McNally (3) received a free kick. There was a stiff chilly breeze blowing straight across the ground. Shortly after Ashton (15) took a good mark in the forward pocket and goaled from a tight angle to take first blood. The Revolution were going hard but giving away some early free kicks. The Falcons added a behind and kept the pressure on the Revolution defence. Lucero was working hard and marking in the NZ goal square. The US team were able to work the ball up and into their forward 50 only to have Stevens (19) match Lucero’s effort at the opposite end. The Falcons using the attacking wing well saw Gunning (8) having a great opening quarter delivering to Ashton well. He goaled from 20 metres out in front. The US unable to add to their score for the quarter as the Falcons added one more behind. The NZ team’s good delivery and marking standing out, as the US appeared to be trying to flood their forward line. The Falcons taking a 2.2 (14) to US 0.0 (0) lead into quarter time. US Coach Nugent implored his team to bring the ball to ground and lock it up to stop the Falcon’s free running football.
Soon after the start of the second quarter the wind had moved to favour the US. After a few minutes of scrappy football, Bradley (26) trapped on the boundary by Revolution defenders whipped a quick handball to the Falcon’s skipper Congalton who evaded two tacklers and drilled a great goal from 40 metres out on the run. Callaghan was winning in the ruck for the Falcons and the ball was delivered nicely to Bowden on the lead, but his kick fell short of hands and was rushed through for a behind. The Revolution responding moving the ball quickly with use of the stiff breeze opened their scoring with a behind off the pack. As the Falcons moved the ball out of their backline they made a rare mistake kicking the ball out of bounds on the full, the Revolution kick in found a Falcons defender who in turn found Jon Loring (19) who took the mark outside the 40metre arc. He calmly went back and goaled from 50 metres. But again the Falcons upstaged their American opponents moments later when Congalton effortlessly threaded himself between defenders to pick up the ball cleanly and delivered long into the pocket to the waiting Ashton. No mistake was made with the kick and the Falcons lead at half time by 20 points. NZ 4.3 (27) to 1.1 (7).
At half time the NZ team went to the rooms while Nugent kept his team out on the ground. With the US unable to peg back the NZ team with the breeze assisting them it was difficult to see them winning. This was quickly confirmed in the third quarter when Jones (10) got the first centre break with a kick out to Thomas (6) who spilled the mark but recovered the ball and kicking off balance and the pack around him was still able to get the ball through the big sticks from 40 metres out. This was followed up by goals to Bradley (26) from a free kick and Ashton with a great banana goal after dropping the mark. The US had definitely become more physical and the Falcons had to work harder to earn their kicks, often being forced wide for numerous boundary throw ins and ball ups. Working the ball into the breeze they started to get something happening only for a kick to the square by Thurmond to go off hands and through for a behind. Kocka (17) was then awarded a free kick 35m out but kicked into the man on the mark, he was able to regain the ball and get ball into Dustin Jones (15) who made no mistake from 15 metres out. The response was again swift however with Jones for NZ shrugging off tackle and running in to kick a goal at the other end. Kocka who had really come into the game now, received a free kick at the other end and goaled to keep the US hopes alive ending the scoring for the quarter. NZ 8.3 (51) to US 3.2 (20).
US hopes were soon dashed in the last quarter with Danks (13) and Bradley (26) goaling early on. Bowden, Henderson, Jones, Marsden and Congalton getting lots of ball through the midfield to set up the attacks for the Falcons. The US team working hard into the breeze now for the first time all day, seemed to get on the right side of the umpiring, perhaps due to getting to the ball earlier. Bradley (3) received a free kick for a push in the back 25metres out from goal and went on to kick the major. One more score each to the teams, a point off hands to the Falcons, and a goal to Lakomy who roved the ball up just outside the goal square saw the day out. The Falcons easy winners doubling the Revolutions score.
Best players for the Falcons were Congalton, Jones, Ashton, Bradley and Marsden. The best for the Revolution were Thurmond, Kocka, Charley Ellis, and Lakomy. The Falcons now go on to play PNG in the final at the MCG 4pm this Saturday in the curtain raiser game before the Carlton vs Collingwood game. They will start favourites and should be impressive on the wide-open MCG expanses. Alex Fakatoumafia was a notable omission from today’s side after his big marking across half back in earlier games and it is not known whether he was rested or injured today.
The US will play off against Ireland at TEAC Oval, at 12.45pm on Saturday for third place and possibly more importantly a better draw come the next International Cup, where they will hope to continue their climb up the International ladder. This promises to be a fiery match if their match last week is anything to go by.
NZ 10.4 (64)
USA 5.2 (32).
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