Oh man. What a week. What a holiday, what a year so far. Yesterday we had some family landmarks, with our 2 year old learning the names of body parts I never imagined a 2 year old singing songs about, and our 5 year old learning how to give the middle finger to random people in public.
I'm keen to get into our Semi-final but let's have a look at our NZ womens semi-final against South Africa first... it's a goodie. I've been neglecting in-depth coverage of our ferny sisters.
I spotted something to geek over from the outset, but I also wanted to take a page out of Ross-the-powerful-backs book, and try to work some monikers into the analysis. Very inspiring listening to Nick and Jack talking about Honey-badgers and Canavans of courage in the aussie womens quarter. Who needs real names right? I will be using the NZ womens official Canadian Spirit animals, and making things up for the SA ladies based on how their video aura appears. Ie I'm making it up. Actually let's make up the NZ girls ones too to make it fair. Spirit animals can wait. Of course, no offense intended, just a bit of a light-hearted addition to an otherwise extremely high pressure and stressful occasion.
Elite Womens Semi-Final 2018 - South Africa vs New Zealand ...Boom!
Right from the first strike, SA come out with a pretty different shape which gets them in all sorts of trouble.
SA on left, NZL on right. Formations heading up the page.
Pretty different approaches! NZ on the right has 2 striking forwards slightly staggered, then a midfield line of 3, then a goalie between puck and goal. This is pretty standard for 2-3-1 all over the world.
SA on the left has a striking forward, then a line made of the other 2 forwards and Zandre "Zeus" Coetzee on the right end, then the remaining 2 backs bookending really wide each side, extra wide on this near side as I think the goalie Lauren "ScrewDwyer" Dwyer looks like she might be expecting play to come towards us, maybe a team directive to go right from the outset? Here's the play as it unfolds from there... Hilariously, the commentators have the teams around the wrong way and think SA has scored the first goal. Classic!
What ends up happening is puck goes to SA left, and the left back gets pulled up into the play immediately, and after a couple seconds she's outnumbered and the puck is worked past her. Screwdwyer started so far to the right, it takes her a long time to get to the play after the left back has gone in, by which time the NZ players have made a couple meters with heads up, see her coming with lots of time, sneak a pass past her and run on the goal. A lot of the attacking opportunity is made in catching the SA backline off balance here. Then Zeus comes in from the outside and has had to make a bit of ground herself and the kiwi girls again have had time to get heads up after going past the goalie, and despite some good desperation defence from SA the next support player Leah "Howitzer" Chamberlin-Gunn drives in and finishes. Basically SA defence gets really stretched
Like this. SA seem to vary their positioning on their strikes maybe according to plans or personal preferences.
A little later, Zeus gets in a similar situation, a long way back from the play as it breaks and Paige "Mighty Mouse" Moran is able to swim up unchallenged with support all around her. Zeus does an amazing job somehow stopping the pass and swimming out of a knot of NZ players but the refs call back as the puck has hit something, and it's called a knockdown and penalty goal.
Zeus alone on Mt Olympus at the back pretty isolated.
Further into the half, SA have some time pressing the kiwi corner, then NZ rolls down the wall and SA run some solid D for a few phases in their corner. They are running a 3-way rotation of backs down that goal-wall, and it works well with very strong body positions until the puck moves out from the corner a few meters to that horrible spot where the rotation has to be ditched and the backline has to reform, and the 3 SA backs all get stuck in the same spot on the corner of the bin, oh crap.
Gabi "Gremlin" Steer and Christie "Cyborg" Whitehead put lots of pressure on but the combined efforts of Zeus, Screwdwyer and Jeanie "Genie" Van Der Merwe (lazy of me I know) are too strong and it's kept out before being called up for an offensive gloving foul by the kiwis.
After an adv and a bit of grinding out of the red zone, SA get another free and Julie "Guillotine" Borstlap throws an incredible dummy around Rachel "Colgate" Arbuckle
which sparks a nice attack in the middle from SA before it's pushed aside by NZ.
After Rebecca "Wraith" Gatland tries to defuse a SA push to the wall, Zeus gets a nice pass through to forwards and Marli "Bandaid" Pelser drives then gets turned by Cyborg, holds and feeds Guillotine who gets right onto goal before a knockdown gets a penalty goal for SA. Game 2-1!
Jennifer "6-shooter" Coppinger wins the ensuing strike but play rolls around in a mess and I can't see who is who. Eventually the Wraith gets some space around the near flank and connects with Claire "Kodiak" George who draws 2 backs and slides it out to Emma "Young-Gun" Bavelaar in a nice give-and-go and then gets it back, gets a pass towards the goal corner as Zeus and the SA defence squeezes them out but it's hit something again and another penalty goal! Madness.
It's raining penalty goals and blocked shots in the pool here.
Off the strike and after the initial mess, Emma "Stingrae" finally gets into it where we can see it, ogring through and getting caught by the last defender who's called for a chopping foul and really, SA lucky it's not called penalty goal as it was the last defender. Time then ticks into halftime and it's getting quite tricky remembering all this.
Start of second half, SA make a great drive all down the wall and push the kiwi corner, get an adv right in front. In the chat, Mackenzie "clairvoyant" Edwards says
"All the penalty goals are from illegal knock downs so the big flicks are obviously causing trouble"...
Seconds later, SA gets a bit unlucky, but not as unlucky as Howitzer who wears a big SA flick in the face 2 feet from the goal. Roxy already has a nickname the commentator seems to be using , looks like it was her? Out for 5 mins, and the refs calling it by the book.
SA holds some great defence together for 3 minutes, then NZ get a free on the SA bin and make an appalling mess of bodies on the corner of the SA bin, which gives us a nice shot on the way of 12 on the bottom...
That's what you show your mates when they ask what uwh looks like, to freak them out. Refs down as well!
Here's the play, really the refs can't see anything and neither can we but what a great D and great drive to pressure... Mighty Mouse ends up moving in to finish from the back when the bodies start popping and the refs give the goal.
Great work from Colgate, Wraith and Abby "Cobra" Vorstermans to turn the puck around the corner of the sweeping D and get it back toward the goal.
Some amazing pressure from SA with 5 after this goal, kiwi girls maybe getting a bit keen to attack and riding too high, leaving Howitzer at the back a bit isolated. I'll highlight this, this is a great second effort. Screwdwyer makes a great bust through the middle and catches the NZ backline flat, Howitzer drops to tackle, and then gets double-teamed by Screwdwyer and the supporting SA forward, check the second effort she makes
That's just what you want, if she doesn't chase again herself Screwdwyer has the goal (or if she's like me after having done all the work she'd offload to that forward to finish it and get some breath) although Cyborg on the outside might have something to say about it but very close anyway, probably a knockdown and penalty goal in this game right? If you can have a team all regularly making second attempts like Howitzers it's worth a lot. Good stuff. Remember SA made that push with only 5 though! Exhausting.
Here's the Genie giving Kodiak the old "you ain't gonna dummy me, mate"
All that attacking effort makes it tough for the SA defence to hold and they roll back, eventually conceding a goal seconds before Roxy re-enters. Always the way.
7 minutes to go, 5-1 down and SA have a massive task but they are back to 6 and storm up the pool, ending in this nice passage and a goal to start the come-back
Roxy scores it, full of energy after the enforced rest. Rebecca "Wise Owl" Brosnan calls a timeout to settle things down for NZ.
After a massive period of play with no calls which must have had both teams hanging their lungs out their bumholes, Guillotine makes a great break under the NZ defence and scores a breakaway. I won't link this one, it's just swimming. She's got a pretty fast cadence, if you want detail. This makes it 5-3, with just over 2 mins to go and realistically, SA can still equalize in time to push it into extra.
NZ then work their way up after a solid SA hit on the strike, and after some useful lurking ahead of the puck Colgate pulls off a ninja pickup in front of goal, gets in behind the backs and scores the winner, from here SA really don't have the time to equalize.
NZ gets one last push on the SA goalbin but somehow they hold it out after some feral defence from Guillotine who has had a blinder in the second half, and the game is over.
Well that's it. How exhausting to comment on, let alone play. Some pretty awesome skills and play from both teams.