John Corrigan gives us his match report from an Irish perspective.
The Irish Warriors suffered a heart breaking three point loss in the grand final of the International Cup at the MCG on Saturday. Following an epic contest the Warriors went down to a skillful Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes outfit despite leading for virtually the entire contest. Two late goals by the Mosquitos saw them take the title for the first time since 2008, gaining sweet revenge having lost to Ireland in the previous final in 2011.
Full of speed and slick skills the PNG outfit dominated possessions and inside 50 entries for long periods but without a tall presence in the forward line were unable to make it show on the score board. Ireland in contrast were led in attack by tournament best and fairest winner Mick Finn who kicked 3 goals in the first quarter and four in total. Ireland’s full forward Padraic Lucey was equally impressive in the air but failed to take full advantage on the score board, kicking 1 goal 4 behinds with two out on the full.
Player of the tournament Mick Finn started off the 2014 International Cup Grand Final where he left off in 2011's Grand Final. In a stellar display he kicked all three goals for Ireland. Early in the quarter Finn almost had his first but the kick dropped short and Muiris Bartley couldn’t pick it up as the ball was rushed for a behind. PNG had an early chance but a quick kick from Ema Wartova was cleared off line.
Padraig Lucey kicked a point in his first score for the match after marking 20m out. Mick Finn then kicked three in a row from a free kick, a leading mark and a paid tackle.
PNG pegged back a bit of the lead after a rushed behind to PNG after a fresh air kick missed the target and Brendon Beno marked and goaled from the kick after siren from 50m out.
At quarter time it was a 12 point lead to Ireland.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man (or woman). For PNG tonight that moment arrived midway through the final term when undersized ruckman John Ikupu who had been battling it out against the taller Irish followers - flew back with the flight of the ball to take a classic and courageous mark. From directly in front he coolly slotted the goal that put the Mozzies in front and helped cement a best on ground performance.
The New Zealand Hawks have finished third at IC14 after beating South Africa Lions by one point in the third place playoff. The match went down to the wire, with a point scored by Andrew Howison enough to have NZ hold on for the win.
On a glorious sunny afternoon at Royal Park South Africa looked the better side through much of the match but the win for New Zealand showed that they are still a force in International footy and not ready to concede to the rapidly improving Lions just yet.
The midday game on Western Oval pitted IC14 old rivals Great Britain Bulldogs and Fiji Tribe against each other for the second time. These sides fought a tough encounter on Community Cup Saturday at Bulleen and the enjoyed a social evening at the Manningham Cobras rooms. Friends were made, respect established – but today all that matters is finishing off with a win and for the Bulldogs having lost successive matches to Nauru, Fiji and Nauru again – there was a sense of having underperformed.
With the sun beating down with perhaps surprising intensity, Sean Walton (#21) the Bulldogs skipper won the toss and elected to kick to the golf course or western-tram track end. Without a significant breeze and with the morning dew dried up the conditions were perfect for footy. On the sidelines the Fiji Tribe enjoyed the extra support of the earlier successful Fiji Vonu ladies team; And with national pride on the line the scene was set.
Fine, cool, no wind with the sun shining equates to perfect conditions for players and spectators alike. The teams aren’t playing for finals but to improve their positions which is taken very seriously.
#23 Chris Martensson thumps the Elks into attack for #70 Jacob Nilsson to take mark but the kick drops short for a good Dragon’s defensive mark. The Elks have the better of play and #14 Max Skarlen roving the ball that clears the pack runs in for an easy goal.
The Dragons are looking for their team mates better but #23 Chris Martensson marks and passes to #56 Dan Koinberg to kick a 20m goal.
Against the tide the Dragons move the quickly into space and scramble a goal giving them a lot of hope. The siren goes as the Dragons were pushing for another.
The Elks had control of the centre bounces in the first quarter and in the second they played smarter using that advantage much better as well as defending better.
Nauru is a football mad country and they always produce a quality football side from the small island. It’s a good measure any competing country can use to gauge their own progress. But in 2014 didn't have the benefit of many of their players getting a grounding in Australia, and the United States Revolution have looked very good this tournament, unlucky with the draw to not be playing for top spot of Division 1. It didn't quite go according to script though.
The much taller USA were immediately into attack for a minor score. They looked very good, kicking long to good leads and had most of the play.
Against the flow #8 Batsiua Mallinson flew high to cut off a pass with one hand and pull the ball in for a mark , only to run around the mark and drill a goal from 40m.
Two defensive lapses by the Chiefs allowed #Bryan Dragus and #2 Ryan Mc Gettigan to mark and goal. The Chiefs were great in attack like the great pack leap mark of #16 Grundler German to goal but they weren’t so quick to man up in defense allowing the Revolution to move the ball in long passes. They are a very unpredictable side who have the confidence to take on a tackle and turn into a pack when a handpass seem more likely and they were always prepared to switch very wide if the Revolution hadn’t manned up.
The USA were out to prove that they belonged in the big league and not with the Canada “B” team.
The Freedom had three goals on the board before the Suns regrouped. They were receiving great drive from #1 Alex Blatnick and a number of others allowing #27 Lindsey Kastanek to run into an open goal. She was unlucky not to follow up with another but took a pass and goaled from 20m later.
At the break the Canadians were concerned with combating the Freedom’s height advantage but the Freedom had more just that. They had a balanced side, teamwork and a plan. Some better passages of play went unrewarded but the constant pressure was keeping the scoreboard ticking over with goals.