Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
In increasingly warm conditions with bright sunshine warming the expanses of the Western Oval at Royal Park, the Swedish Elks lined up against the Japan Samurais for the 11th place play off. Japan only just scraped into Division 1 and have struggled overall, so it may have been expected that Sweden would win comfortably. Not so.
In a tightly contested first quarter, the Elks were wasteful with 4 behinds to the Samurai’s 1.1 (7). The sole goal for the quarter to Japan’s Ikeda (#32).
The second term saw the action heat up and the game open up. The Swedes snaring an early goal to Rickard Barrefelt (#18) to take the lead. Japan fired back, firstly a boundary throw in clearance saw the ball in the hands of Raku Shimokawa (#21) who kicked truly across his body for a nice goal. Minutes later, again, Japan clearing to space and looking dangerous were able to find Takaaki Seto (#23) in the clear for another long snap on goal. Not to be outdone, some strong marking in a passage of play by the Elks found Barrefelt again on the end, and with a strong mark he duly went back and kicked the much needed goal to stay in touch.
Japan threatened again before the long break, and but for the strong defence on the last line by Tony Persson (#29) who first touched what look like being a goal through for a behind, followed by a strong mark and bullocking play on and clearance from the danger zone. Sweden looked as though they may have seen off the half, other than a late solid mark to Ikeda, who worried about the distance played on immediately but hooked his kick left and through for a behind. Half time, a narrow 5 point lead the way of the Samurai’s in a tight contest.
The third quarter was an arm wrestle. Again, the Samurai’s looking most dangerous on the burst when able to find space, while the Swedes more likely to switch. The Samurai’s were wasteful early, firstly big Ken Sato (#13) marking the Swedish clearance and sending the ball forward for Saito (#6) to mark however he missed from close range. Back up the other end and a free kick in front of goal gave Stahl (#6) an easy conversion and again the game was closed right up midway through the term. The only further goal for the term was an error from Andreas Svensson, taking on too many Samurai defenders he was run down and conceded a free to Kuno (#8) whose goal gave the Samurai’s a handy lead at the last break.
As the temperature dropped to start the last quarter, the Swedes looked the sharper in the early play. Skipper Johan Lantz (#4) followed up a team mate's dropped chest mark near the goal square by laying a rewarded tackle on the unlucky Sato. The resultant goal again locking up the game. Full of beans, Lantz’s next shot was a long snap from the boundary that was touched over the line, but shortly after Barrefelt’s fine left foot snap from deep in the pocket found the unguarded goal and suddenly the Swedes had reversed the three quarter time deficit. This proved the decisive goal, here after, the Swedes managed one more behind while the Japanese, who were starting to look beaten instead responded strongly to get back into the game.
There were some small delays as the players from both sides went in hard. A player from each side being carried from the ground at one point, from separate incidents on opposite sides of the field. The Samurai’s losing Saito after a super solid hip and shoulder clash with Sweden’s Lowenborg (#17). Ruckmen Koinberg (#30) and Terasawa (#35) continued to battle it out as the hotly contested ball resulted in successive packs and bounced resumptions.
With several shots by the Samurai on goal in the last few minutes, including one on the full by big Nozaki (#24), one wide the other way to Seto; followed by a succession of behinds. The Samurai’s were doing it in one’s but fell just short in the end by 4 points when time was up. They had fought fiercely in the dying minutes but did everything but score the winning goal. The Elks were jubilant, and the Samurai’s, especially the tireless big fellow Ken Sato were devastated. The game was a cracker and full credit to both sides.
Sweden 5.7 (37) def Japan 4.9 (33)
Sweden – R. Barrefelt 3, J. Lantz , T. Stahl
Japan – K. Ikeda , R. Shimokawa , K. Komura , Y. Kuno
Sweden – R. Barrefelt, E. Sahlin, E. Aberg, G. Bondeau, D. Koinberg, M. Valemark
Japan – M. Sakaki, K. Sato, M. Nakamura, H. Terasawa, H. Ono, Y. Kuno
World Footy News