The Russian Mixed team entered Tuesday unbeaten, beating Great Britain, Malaysia and Ukraine. Austria had lost heavily to Great Britain but brought in wins against a much-fancied Portugal team (albeit on universe point) and Poland. They met in the first game of the day, when conditions were mercifully much less hot than during the previous day. The sea mist had rolled in overnight and had not yet fully dissipated, and the breeze was yet to pick up.
The start of the game was straightforward for both teams. It wasn’t until Austria broke for the first time, going ahead 3-2, that either team had really shown any signs of struggling. One thing that became evident very quickly – the Austrians had very little answer for Isaiah Masek-Kelly going deep, and even less for Anatoly Vasilyev making huge gains downfield.
The Austrians came out with a zone early, but it failed to have the desired effect as Russia worked around it efficiently. Austria turned twice in quick succession, the first on a poor dump pass and the second on a huck that was overshot. Russia made them pay for both, and the Austria break earlier in the game was soon nullified. However, when one down at 5-6 Austria came up with a lucky break when a Russian turn allowed them a shot at a short field. Four passes later they had Patrick Zerlauth to thank for a tied game as he cleaned up two wayward throws with a high grab and then a layout for the score. Russia overcame that disappointment, though, and scored easily for a 7-6 lead at half.
The first point out of half saw Austria on offence trying to tie the game. The point was clearly a key moment in the game as the teams traded a number of turnovers. They key one, though, came through a fantastic layout block on a dump by Pavel Eremin for Russia. He had to go off after landing heavily on a shoulder – he missed the rest of the contest with an ice pack pressed against the injury. His injury allowed Vasilyev to come on and throw a delicious high-release off-hand backhand score, though, so silver linings and all that.
Down by two points for the second time, Austria came out firing. They needn’t have gotten themselves up for it though; a bizarre miscommunication left one of their female cutters wide open down the field, and after a slightly sketchy backhand was floated into the endzone that man Zerlauth hauled it in again.
Just as Austria might have sensed a chance back into the game, Vasilyev chucked it downfield and Masek-Kelly ripped it down. Sensing the pressure, Russia seemed to lean on their workhorses. Austria kept chugging away and put in their offensive points but the Masek-Kelly/Vasilyev combo accounted for two more points, taking the game to 11-9 and securing an important win for Russia.
By Sean Colfer.