England’s campaign looked, at least from the results, very like the last senior world championships. The boys had a rocky start, and despite spirited campaigns against the likes of Australia, their world status as a blue division team was left to the final few games to defend.
As a country, we continue to prove that some of our talent can run with the best in the world, but the elusive medal game escaped us again.
Throughout the tournament it’s been a pleasure to watch players like Alex Russell (Poynton/Nottingham University) looking so dangerous with the ball, Joe Cara (Brooklands/Loughborough University) putting numbers on the board whenever they were there to be had and Elliot Leonard (Norbury) looking like an international level athlete in the midfield. There have of course been great performances elsewhere, the likes of Grady Fayle in the defence and the ‘one – two punch’ combination of Zach Peng and Tim Collins in midfield all had stand out moments.
Going into the Germany game, none of the England boys will have wanted to still be hunting their first win. For them to come out and control the game throughout, in the way that they did, showed character and was certainly something they can be proud of. Against the Germans a good first and third quarter spelled victory for the English lads, who managed to battle off a Germany come back in the second to take the win and provide opportunity for the 5th 6th placement game.
The England lads were under no allusions as to the importance of their Israel fixture, and prior to the match there were whispers of what a loss could mean for the next generation of England under 19s.
For Israel this was the first appearance at an under 19 World Championships, but one which looks like it could be the start of a long involvement in the international lacrosse world. For those that don’t know, Israel has invested heavily in lacrosse in the last few years, hosting their own professional league in the summer, and even managing to secure televised lacrosse in the coming year. Couple that with a heavy commitment to bringing in American-Israeli lacrosse coaches and their success in past years quickly begins to make sense.
The Israel team looked very capable in key areas, with a solid goalkeeper and proven face off team leading the charge for their side. England on the other hand were just beginning to play the kind of lacrosse they had been crying out for in the tournament, not to mention they were finally off the mark with the points vs Germany.
Israel took the lead early on, with an impressive brace of goals from their long stick midfielder, and they maintained that lead until the half, when England would find themselves trailing 4-2.
It would have been easy for the boys to crack under the pressure, with a deficit at the half and the prospect of relegation hanging over them.
From the outset of the second half however, England looked like a different team. Austin Hudson led the charge, benefitting from some settled possessions, smart set plays and good midfield dodging, to take the chances he was given and eventually leave the game with 5 goals to his name. Elsewhere the usual suspects came up for England, in the form of Alex Russell and Elliot Leonard.
The third quarter broke the back of the game, England managed to find the net five times, to enter the final quarter with a narrow lead. From there England kept their composure, and on the back of an Alex Russell goal, and assist to Hudson, plus a quality contribution from Zach Peng (from Collins) England saw out the game with style and class.
The tournament was a slow one to get going for England, to say the least, but they can be proud of the way they finished.
Next time, England will return to the blue division, and have the opportunity once again to play for a medal on the biggest stage in junior lacrosse.
Article by Tom Roche