Contributed by: Troy Thompson
While the US team may have had many of its squad from game one on the sidelines for this match, its goalkicking star of game one, Kidney Lakomy started off where he left off the last, with a goal. There was a light northerly breeze and although this was only Round 2, Melbourne’s great finals weather had arrived at least a week early. China had the breeze in their favour but it was Rob Lutostanski for the US who soon added a second goal after marking. The Chinese put to bed any thoughts of an easy hitout for the Americans with a series of heavy tackles particularly from Li Cheng and making the Revolution earn their possessions. Ruckman Gao Rundong was winning taps in the center but the US still managed to clear. With an extended period of the ball bouncing from one half back line to the other, the US could only score points. It looked like the US would finally goal when Lutostanski received a free kick for high contact after a series of Chinese tackles. His kick however went wide. The Chinese team may have made more progress but many of their kicks contained more height than length. The US led by 14 points at quarter time and coach Rob Oliver wanted the forward line opened up as their forward 50 was continually full of players from both sides.
While it was a warm 18 degrees for a Melbourne winter’s day, it was of little concern for the two sides that have travelled from the northern hemisphere summer. Down in the southern goal square Plugger the Chinese fullback and Kidney the US full forward were showing a bit of niggle. Perhaps with his mind on other things, Plugger’s kick in from a behind went straight to David Walker who from the boundary split the big sticks from the 40m line. China got the ball into their forward line for only the second time for the match and tried to lock it in with a series of tackles. Ning Jin was working hard for the Demons at ground level but not getting much penetration beyond the half forward line. The US started to find space in the forward line but were still struggling to get clean passage.
The Demons seemed at times almost too keen on the tackling and Ryan Marx was awarded a free kick for a push out, which he duly converted for the maximum score. Suddenly the flood gates had opened and everyone in red, white and blue looked a chance, goals were added by Chris Candelaria who roved a throw in, Sarbarker and Ullman in even time. Marx finished off the quarter by marking, and slipping away from the Chinese defender and banging another through. The lead blowing out to 55 points at half time.
After a scrappy start to the second half Danny Hansen missed with the first shot at goal for the quarter. The clogging up of the US forward line seen in the first half had returned. The US tried to thread through the traffic but were often forced wide and even when they weren’t the US shots at goal sprayed wide. The goal drought was broken when Country went long to Brandon Blankenship who marked 10 metres out and made no mistake with the kick. This was soon followed up by another when Danny Hansen kicked to the square and David Walker roved and shot from point blank range. Zhang Fei and Xu Jian were giving their all for their team but could only hold back the US for so long. Paul Duncan saw out the scoring for the quarter with one more goal to take the US lead to 79 points.
The last quarter saw the US open things up again, Danny Hansen created great movement in the forward line and seemed to be everywhere. He delivered to Ryan Marx who goaled. Blankenship added two more goals in quick succession, Hansen again involved in the setup. The Chinese sensing they might be able to create a goal appeared to lift again, Yan Feng and Ning Jin throwing their bodies around and Wang Lei tackling hard. But it was the US with good and bad kicking up forward, finishing with goals to Dustin Jones and Andy Lindsey.
While it wasn’t always pretty the US kept a clean sheet and the massive win by 114 points over newcomers China sees them march on their merry way to head their pool. Monday is the one everyone is waiting for though, when they take on South Africa in Warrnambool. They will have an extra day of rest (the Lions play Saturday) which may be a lot in this high intensity tournament and will no doubt have a number who rested today come back in for that game. China will take on Denmark who will be another big challenge but again we would expect the Chinese to be well beaten. The Chinese tried hard today and certainly did not lose respect. Their skills were generally good, but their kicking length and accuracy would be their big area for improvement - against the Danes they will at least be looking to register their first score of the tournament.
|2.4 (16)||1/4||0.0 (0)|
|8.7 (55)||1/2||0.0 (0)|
|11.14 (80)||3/4||0.0 (0)|
|16.18 (108)||Full||0.0 (0)|
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