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Sunday, January 26 2020 @ 09:43 am ACDT

‘Cats triumph in the battle of the Brits

Europe

A perfect day for footy saw the 10th Brit Cup tournament run on the South coast, hosted by the local Southampton Titans. An annual tournament which only the European players from the UK clubs can compete in, the event has been held in a number of venues around the country and is a great chance for the regional clubs to level the playing field against their Aussie-rich London counterparts.

In recent years, the event and indeed much of London footy has been dominated by the West London Wildcats, but they were to be shocked into defeat by the Central & Northern Warriors representative team in the opening round. With this one result, the competition became that much more open and with the siren, the competition took on an extra note of interest. Through the course of the group stage, these two teams proved too much for the Welsh Devils and Reading Kangaroos, taking the semi-final spots by a comfortable margin.

In the other group, there were to be fierce battles to decide the semi-finalists, with London powerhouses the Wandsworth Demons taking on the traditionally very strong EU contingent from the Putney Hawks, 2008 finalists the Southern Saxons and the first ever entry from the Wimbledon Hawks. The Saxons capitalised on some great team efforts to take top spot, joined by the Magpies after some close results just edged them into 2nd place.

The semi-finals would be fascinating matches, with probably two of the strongest European contingents in London taking on the strong representative teams from the Central & Northern and the Southern English leagues. These rep squads, amalgamated from all clubs playing the relevant leagues around England, allow players to compete when their individual clubs may not have the numbers to enter a team by themselves. They also give coaches of the national teams a great chance to see players alongside non-club-mates and how they adapt – a vital ability when competing for spots in the GB Bulldogs, England Dragonslayers and Welsh Dragons.

In the first semi, the Warriors proved just too strong for the Magpies, with hard running out of the middle allowing those few extra scoring opportunities which were taken with great accuracy. The second semi was a repeat of the 2008 final and once again, with the Wildcats gaining momentum as the day went on, the close in skills of the Cats, combined with great approach play into full forward, meant that the Saxons would fall tantalisingly just short of the prize once again.

At the end of a long day, the Central & Northern Warriors lined up for the final in only their 2nd Brit Cup against the Wildcats, whose play had been getting better all day. The game was hard fought and with legs beginning to slow down after a scorching day, points were hard to come by. The play moved end to end with neither team dominating in the first half, but in the 2nd, the more accurate passing of the Wildcats began to pay dividends, with full-forward Ben O’Brien leading well, Barry Malone playing his usual phenomenal game and GF best-and-fairest Sam Brunton picking up a lot of the ball and disposing well. At the siren, the Cats had pushed ahead and took the game 2-5-17 to 1-3-9.

This was a day of great contests, of the enthusiastic rookies matching up to their more experienced counterparts and above all, fantastic evidence that footy is alive and kicking goals all over the UK.

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