Women’s Triples on top, what next for Jackaroos?
Rebecca Van Asch and her triples team of Carla Krizanic and Natasha Scott, have continued their find run of form, despite a scare in their 5th round match vs Fiji. The Australian team won 11 of their 12 matches, with only Aron Sherriff losing a match, and all sit in the top 2 spots of their sectional play.
Round 4 saw our triples team dominate another match, defeating the USA 32-9. The next game however got off to an ordinary start, with Fiji, who were currently 2 Wins and 2 Losses, taking an early lead against the Australians. At 1-7 some improvement in play was needed. “Fiji were playing really well against us, to their credit. We then made a couple of big conversions that got us back in the game. We then changed tactics a bit and we never looked back after that,” said skipper Van Asch. And never look back is what they did, running away 20-11 winners. The last match of the day was against Wales, who had only lost one match and were sitting in second place. A win here would give the team a 2 win cushion over second place. The opportunity to have that buffer was too good for the Australians to pass up and a 20-8 victory ensued. “We all played pretty well today, we’re really happy with how things are going,” commented Van Asch at the end of the day’s play.
The last day will see Australia play Scotland (6th), Brunei (7th) & Ireland (9th). Thanks to a superior shots up (114 compared to 25), one win will be enough to secure top spot in the section and a bye into the Semi Final. Due to the matchups, it is highly likely that the Australian team is guaranteed a top 3 spot even if they lose all 3 matches because the USA who are in 3rd have to play Canada and Wales who are in 2nd and 4th respectively. Despite the likelihood of finishing top seeming assured, Van Asch is keen not get too far ahead of herself, “Things have gone well so far and it is certainly nice to have a bit of a buffer going into tomorrow. Obviously our first aim is to finish in the top 3 and qualify for the finals. If we can finish top, earning the bye and being guaranteed a medal, that would be great!
The other women’s team of Kelsey Cottrell and Karen Murphy looked to rebound after their 3rd round loss to New Zealand. And rebound they did! They defeated the dangerous Philippines pairing 17-10, before playing Israel who at that stage were equal with the Australians on 3 wins and 1 loss. The 18-11 score line to the Australian pairing created some breathing room between 2nd and 3rd on the ladder. The final game of the day was against Namibia. Despite being on the bottom of the ladder, their opponents could not be taken easily as they had defeated the more fancied England 12-11 in the 4th round. The Australians ensured that the same slip up would not happen to them, putting the pedal to the ground and winning 37-7. The shots up earned in this game could prove crucial, as they now have a better total (71 to 61) than New Zealand if the Blackjacks slip up tomorrow.
Australia will play England (4th), Cyprus (5th) & Canada (7th) tomorrow whilst New Zealand face Namibia (10th), Israel (6th) & England (4th). Australia needs to win one more game than New Zealand tomorrow and maintain their shots up advantage (currently 10) if they are to finish on top of the group. A win against England will guarantee a finals spot, if they lose that match, they will need to win the last two to qualify. With England having to play the three teams above them on the ladder (Aus, NZ & the Philippines), it could be a very tense last day for a few teams.
The Men’s Fours team of Barrie Lester, Brett Wilkie, Aaron Wilson & Mark Casey find themselves in the unusual position of having won all 6 games but sit second in their section. England have also won all of their encounters and have a much healthier shots up record, 115 to 57. Today Australia defeated Spain 16-14, Jersey 32-9 (before this match the Jersey four had only been beaten once) & Malaysia 19-13. To further complicate the section, the 3rd place team Ireland has won 5 matches and had a draw so are not out of the running for a top of the rung finish in this section. The last day will see Ireland play England in Round 7, Ireland play Australia in Round 8 and England play Australia in Round 9 (The Australians will also have Japan (9th) in Round 7) Before realising Ireland was so close to Australia and England I asked skip Mark Casey how the Australian team stops themselves from already focusing on their Round 9 match up versus Australia, “We can’t afford to look too far ahead to be honest, we have total respect for all our opponents, so we are taking it one game at a time. We are very happy to be undefeated after 6 rounds, however, we have 3 very important games tomorrow.”
Of course, Casey is right, this tournament has demonstrated that you cannot afford to take anyone lightly. Whilst the fight is on for top spot, the battle to finish top 3 is almost already over. Australia would need to lose all 3 games, Malaysia would need to win all 3 games and see a shots up turnaround of 35 shots. To clarify, one win gives Australia a spot in the finals, but 3 wins earns them the automatic semi-final berth. The only thing that worried me was the change in venue, where the fours team head to Fendalton, the third venue in three days. But this doesn’t seem to bother Mark Casey, “It is a challenge as each venue is a little different, but as a rule, the greens have been really good.”
The singles section that Aron Sherriff is in, saw no-one walk away with 3 wins out of 3. Sherriff’s only slip up of the day was against reigning Commonwealth Game gold medallist Darren Burnett 15-21. Looking at the draw for the remainder of the day, Sherriff probably expected himself to finish the day in 3rd and battling it out for a finals spot on the last day. But section leader and birthday boy Ryan Bester (Canada) slipped up 20-21 against Sunhill Bahadur of India and in the same round Burnett fell to the Australia based Kenta Hasebe who is representing Japan. At the same time Sherrif defeated Namibia21-12 and finished the day with a 21-13 win over Hasebe, with Bester & Burnett also winning their 6th round match-ups.
This now leaves Bester on top (5 wins +50), Sherriff in 2nd (5 wins +26), Burnett in 3rd (4 wins +23) and Hasebe in 4th (3 wins +8). Bester and Sherriff play each other in Round 9, meaning that Sherriff can ignore those behind him for now, 3 wins and he finished top of the group, the same can be said for Bester too! Before Bester, Sherriff will play India (6th) and Guernsey (9th). Both Burnett and Hasebe will hope he falters and gives them the chance to earn 2nd or 3rd spot. If Sherriff wins 2 games, he is guaranteed a finals spot, probably one win and 2 close losses would do it as well, but 3 wins will be the target.
So some big matches lay ahead of us heading into day 3 of the second week. With all four Australian teams doing so well, it looks like it will be very difficult for them to lose the Overall trophy for the best performed team, but stranger things have happened and as the cliché says, just take it one game at a time!
By David Genford