With the Men’s pools reaching their climax today, every single result is massive for not only the teams involved, but the others around them. Before first pull this morning, Pool B was wide open with as many as eight teams in contention for the four places in the top bracket. Two of these nations were Australia and Belgium.
With Australia sitting on a 6-2 record, including big wins over Germany and France, another win here would see them in a prime position for a top four spot. Belgium (5-3), however, have had a few more ups and downs over the week so far, beating Ireland but losing some tight games to the Germans and the Philippines. The mismatch of results only begins to highlight the unpredictable nature of this pool so far.
As the early morning tie began, the sun had not yet reached full ascendency so there was still a subtle, cooling breeze coming from the sea. With Belgium out on offence, it looked as if Australia would start the stronger of the two as they forced a quick turnover. But, as fast as they won the disc, things were flipped on their head as Merlin Wollast’s determination to win the disc back for his team resulted in a Callahan. 1-0 Belgium.
With this early mental boost, the Belgians needed to capitalise, and that they did. Two forced turns in quick succession resulted in two speedy breaks. Suddenly it was 3-0 and the Aussies had a mountain to climb. And, after a deep breath and a fresh line-change, they started to attempt the first steps as Ben Sutas managed to find Zac Chodos to put them on the board. 3-1.
From here, the two sides begin trading as turnovers become somewhat of a premium occurrence. With two rather contrasting yet effective forms of offence, neither team could do much to win the disc back, until Australia’s Kyal Oh woke up the sideline with a massive shoulder height layout D in the endzone. Energised by the super play, the Aussies worked the disc down the field, aggressively taking the unders to grab their first break to make it 5-4.
But the break train was not going to be leaving the station in this game for either team. Again, both offences looked almost flawless as Belgium used their nippy receivers combined with their small army of competent throwers. Utilising the deep space, it seemed like every second goal came from a massive, well-floated backhand huck. Australia acted as the ying to Belgium’s yang, for most of the game working on attacking the break side, taking unders and working the disc up for the field with some lovely small-ball. Both were a joy to watch.
With Belgium taking half 7-5, the Aussies knew they needed to work their sand-socks off in order to turn their counterparts and claw their way back. A massive sideline presence, especially with the unmistakable bellowing tones of Ciaran ‘Cron’ Hudson, was vital in helping create pressure, as it gave the team the energy to chase down a rare errant huck from Victor Ouchinsky. More quick work on offence results in the score 8-8. Suddenly, we had a game on our hands.
At this point it was getting late in the game with less than 10 minutes to go. The Belgians began to take a page out of the Aussie playbook by showing that they could also play the fast under game. Lots of zippy breaks, punctuated by a deliciously cheeky high release inside backhand break, put Belgium up once more at 9-8, followed immediately be a time out by the leaders. Calls of “this is it boys” and “every point like it’s the last!” came out of the Australian sideline as they began to huddle up. Rory Connell, who seemed to be one of the clutch players at the heart of their offence, began to run the show once more as they again notched their O point just as time goes. 9-9, game to 11.
With how the game had gone so far, it was clear from the sideline that it would take something big in order for Australia to win back the break to take the game. Belgium’s offence was finely tuned and there was little way to stop it. The easy breaks given up early on were proving to be vital in telling the story of the game. Despite huge pressure, a lot of high stalls and some rather scary Hail Mary hammers, Belgium would not give the disc away. This was their game, with the final score 11-10.
With this final result, the mad house that is Pool B gets even more unpredictable. We now see Philippines unbeaten (9-0) with France not far behind (7-2) followed by Great Britain, Germany, Australia and Belgium on 6-3. Ireland sitting in seventh, have a slightly worse ratio of 5-4, but are still in contention should results go their way. At this stage it would be foolish to try and guess who we will see make the quarters, but it’s sure to be an entertaining journey for all.
By Aidan Kelly.