England suffered a heartbreaking overtime defeat after pushing the game into extra time with a dramatic equaliser with 9 seconds left on the clock.
In a pulsating game, England played their best lacrosse of the tournament but the loss leaves them fighting for elite division survival.
England were two goals down with 75 seconds left when Aaron Prosser snaked through the defence to create a nail-biting finale. Then, with just 21 seconds left, England called a time out and Captain Sam Russell showed his ice-in-the-veins composure to watch the clock tick down before delivering a brilliant feed to release Colin Clive to strike with laser guided shot.
England had saved the game.
But Japan’s Andrew Lay – a professional with the Denver Outlaws – grabbed the decisive goal in the first period of overtime and England’s heroic efforts could not force another goal.
The game was an epic, lasting four hours because of two lengthy delays as lighting crackled around the Dicks Sporting Goods complex on the outskirts of Denver.
Japan took an early 2-0 lead before Aaron Prosser intercepted a clear then found Clive for the first of his three goals. Japan made it 3-1 before Nick Watson astutely hit Clive on the doorstep and he finished in style.
Nick Anderton was sharp in goal but he could do nothing to stop a Lay thunderbolt and a rampant Japan hit quarter time with a 5-2 lead.
Sam Russell grabbed one back early in the second quarter before the weather turned more Denton than Denver and organisers called a halt as thunder rumbled and the rain sheeted down. The players were off for an hour and England resumed with Ben McAllister in goal.
England re-started with bite in their game and Prosser struck with a diving finish as the cover closed in on him.
The game see-sawed with the teams matching each other and Matt Sexton rounded off a period of prolonged possession to strike from X. 5-6 at half time.
But Japan got a burst of supremacy, scoring three unanswered goals, as England survived on scraps.
They rallied again though with Jak Wawrzyniak clearing up field to lift morale and England staged a thrilling comeback.
Clive rounded the post the finish from a tight angle. Russell then turned master by working an isolation up top to find Ady Bennett on the crease and a double fake finish brought it back to 7-9.
Russell repeated the magic 90 seconds later as the 3rd quarter drew to a close. With 40 seconds left he chewed up the clock before hitting Bennett again who fired in with a low stinger.
The 4th quarter was just three minutes old when the teams were taken off for another weather Break.
Japan struck first after the re-start for 8-11 but a McAllister save was the catalyst for an England purple patch with Prosser unleashing a firecracker shot from another astute Watson feed. Sexton then seemed to wait an age at X before rounding the pipe for a cobra strike as he was flattened with four minutes left. One goal in it.
The drama kept coming as the Japanese made it 10-12 with 75 seconds to go. Despair then turned to hope as Andrew Baxter executed a brilliant take away check and the possession got to Prosser who weaved through the defence to plant a perfect shot past the keeper. 11-12 with 69 seconds left.
Tom Gallon won the face off but possession was traded as both teams suffered the jitters before England regained the ball as Japan turned it over on a stall warning called a time out with 21 seconds to go.
It was Russell again who took responsibility setting up near the half way line as he got his troops in position. With the scoreboard clock racing downwards, he launched his drive got the defender off balance and forced a slide before arrowing a pass to Clive who stepped in for a smart, top shelf finish.
Just 12 seconds left. Level 12-12. Overtime.
The game entered a breakneck phase as both teams threw everything into the win. England went man down and Japan’s precision passing created a slot for Lay to get the go ahead lead.
England battled relentlessly to fashion another equaliser and Tommy Kirkland disrupted a lengthy Japanese possession to launch another last ditch assault but the killer touch was missing and the final 30 seconds was down to Lay who circled the field to kill the clock and England’s dreams.
England now face Germany in a crucial match to retain top flight status.