Chief Exec’s World Championship Diary: Taking On the World Number One

It was a great feeling to wake up this morning and to know that we were in the last four of the World championship. Yes, I was feeling nervous about taking on the home nation Australia, the no. 1 in the world. but I reflected that this was better than playing for 5th/6th position, the place we have found ourselves in all recent tournaments. For a while we have known we are better than that, so I thought it’s now just a case of proving that and of knowing just how much better we are!

There could be no tougher test than taking on Australia and the legendary pairing of Ryley Batt and Chris Bond. For a long time now they have been the heart of the ‘Steelers’ and have bullied other teams into submission with their speed, skill, and sheer power. But the prize for winning was huge – a place in the final of the World Championship and a medal guaranteed.

Arriving in the arena you could be forgiven for thinking it was our home match because the small but highly vocal GB supporters, led by a large gang of Chris Ryan fans and the ever present mum and dad of Johnny Coggan, made enough noise to drown out the Aussies! A good sign, I felt! The Head Coach started with a line that ultimately survived for most of the match – Chris, Jim, Jamie and Johnny. Although we again lost the tip off the teams began by sizing one another up and matched each other for tries during the opening minutes. It was around minute 4 that the game started to open up and a couple of unforced GB errors gave the advantage to Australia who finished Q1 17-14 up. GB came out very focussed for Q2 and made a phenomenal start pressing Australia and putting them under enormous pressure. Batt and Bond kept the Steelers in the game and absorbed the GB onslaught. With 3 minutes of Q2 remaining Paul Shaw called a Time Out – I’m not sure what he said but whatever it was it worked because the team came back on and immediately forced a turnover and maintained the pressure. Q2 ended 30-28 to Australia. Watching, I was thinking to myself that this is the best quarter I have ever seen a GB team play.

Q3 started with a change of line with Aaron Phipps and Ryan Cowling on. It started well for us and we forced a turnover to bring the score within one point – Australia 30 GB 29. We did not settle though and Australia replied by quickly taking a try back. 2 minutes from the end of the quarter Ayaz Bhuta was brought on and it was not long before the GB pressure again told and the quarter ended 46 to Australia and 44 to GB. Both teams put their absolute all into the last quarter as it was clear that either team was good enough to win. It was the experienced and cool headed Ryley that ensured the Steelers maintained their slim lead against the close marking and determined pressing of GB. The game ended with an Australian win by 59-57 points.

I’m bristling with pride at the team’s performance today! I am not going to single out athletes today because I thought it was a huge team performance. All athletes showed such character, such commitment and for the most part kept cool heads. In the whole game I think I counted a total of just 8 turnovers which shows the quality of the rugby being played. Paul Shaw also made some outstanding coaching decisions at critical times today. We are so close now, so close and we believe in ourselves and one another. Tomorrow is another day. We are more than capable of beating the USA, who lost to Japan in the other crossover game We will need clear heads again, we will need even greater discipline, we will need to withstand the barrage of a physical and highly experienced team, but we believe we can do it and the prize of a bronze medal is one we would love to have!

To all of you watching back home and tweeting messages of support a big thank you – we all appreciate it. And for those who have asked… yes I am missing Lily!

Today’s Other Results

NZ 59 – Colombia 61
Poland 49 – Ireland 44
Denmark 51 – Canada 52
France 54 – Sweden 42
USA 46 – Japan 51

David Pond