England placed the crowning glory onto their European campaign this weekend in Budapest. Two weeks of lacrosse culminated in England’s biggest challenge of the tournament versus Israel on Saturday, a game that went down to the wire and saw the England lacrosse philosophy pay dividends in the end.
Coming out of the first whistle England looked confident. The first settled possession belonged to the lions, and some good ball movement and patient attack resulted in the kind of look on goal that would typically have meant the lead for England. However, Israel goalie Eric Fischer made the first stop of what would be an 8 save quarter, before Israel went up the other end and stole England’s momentum to go 1 goal up.
It wasn’t long though before a Russell pass through the middle of the Israel defence found Josh Roden-Lowe for a finish on crease. With the score all tied Nick Watson was next to strike for England, putting away a trademark low-angle finish, made possible by his fast feet.
The first quarter didn’t see any more goals from either team, and going into the second England led by a low score of 2-1.
It was Israel who struck next, grabbing a fast brace before Roden-Lowe found himself collecting a loose ball on the crease and slotting it away to make it 3 each. England still looked patient in attack, but things were going Israel’s way, with another blue goal putting them up by 1.
As the game lumbered through the 3rd quarter and both defences ground out solid performances the score remained extremely low by England’s lofty standards in this tournament.
Late in the third Glenn Humphries let a howitzer shot off, which nestled in the roof of the Israeli goal before the tireless Zac Guy found his first of the day to set the score at 5-4 England going into the final quarter.
It was All-European LSM and face off man Tom Brook who got the 4th quarter off to the start England needed, opening up a 2 goal lead for the first time in the game at the end of typically excellent hustle in the midfield.
What seemed like moments later Glenn Humphries passed up a 12 yard shot to give team mate Will Sugden all the time and room he needed to pick out a top corner finish inside. With that England had the lead they needed, making the score 7-4 before all eyes would turn to the defence and a 20 year-old Will Baxter in the form of his life.
Baxter had amassed an impressive array of saves already, but he wasn’t finished yet. Throughout the final minutes he would take the count to 20 saves in the game and 9 in the final quarter. A performance from the young player that would see him named MVP in the European Championships, joining his brother Andrew on the All-European team alongside the deadly duo of Guy and Watson.
England saw the game out in style, eventually winning 7-6 before the scenes of elation began.
England have won the toughest European championships yet and all the staff and players involved can leave Budapest with their heads held high.
Photos: Susan Coote & Oskar Polak