Pulling The Flag

Fired up Lions suffer heartbreak

An explosive first half for GB’s men startled the high-flying Austrians, but their late fightback dropped the Lions to 2-2 after Day Two of the European Championships.

The men’s team lost both of its matches today (Friday) against World Cup semi-finalists Italy and tournament powerhouses Austria. But that doesn’t tell the story of two games in which GB were close to springing a surprise against some of the best on the continent.

GB’s women seem to be improving by the game, although they’re still waiting for their first win after five games out in Spain. A 44-19 loss to Israel was followed up by a spirited performance in a 33-12 defeat to France, and a 28-0 loss to the unbeaten Austrians.

Headline pic: GB and Spain, after their day one match. Courtesy of FFEC2015 organisers.

What it all means

It’s now getting to the stage where we’re looking around the tournament to find results elsewhere. The Men’s tournament is split into a group of seven (Group A) and a group of six (Group B), with the top four teams in each group going into the quarter finals. The nine-team women’s tournament gives the top two finishers a bye, while the 3rd plays 6th and 4th plays 5th. The 7th to 9th placed teams play a round robin for position.

Thanks to Slovenia’s 36-32 win over the Czechs, GB’s men sit in fourth place in Group A. They’re level with Slovenia on 2-2, but have a better points difference. Germany’s commanding 53-7 win over Sweden moves them to 3-1, while Italy and Austria are also in the qualifying positions.

Tomorrow’s going to be crucial for the Lions, with games against their qualifying rivals Slovenia (10.3oam UK) and Germany (5pm). They can still finish level with current group leaders Austria (4-0), but Plan A is to finish strong enough to secure a top-four slot. Germany’s other remaining game is a tough shout against unbeaten Austria, while Slovenia have to take on 3-1 Italy.

At the moment, Great Britain’s women are at 0-5, and need wins to move up to that Italy’s 26-18 win over Spain in the late game means Spain and Italy both have two wins, and we’re still waiting to hear whether the only other winless team (Switzerland) beat the 2-3 Danes. They’ll probably need at least two wins from Italy (9am UK), Switzerland (12pm) and Denmark (5pm) tomorrow to move out of the bottom three round robin, but they can take heart from the fact that they’re improving every game, and could well grab their first tournament win tomorrow at this rate of growth.

Get results from all the games and tournament tables by visiting the event website. You can review GB’s games (excluding GB Women v Austria) using our GB playlist below.

How it went down

At half time in the game against Italy, GB’s men were putting in a strong shift. Having led twice early on, Calvin Tarlton led the Lions to a late leveller to round off the half at 20-20. However, a rough patch at the start of the second half allowed Italy to pile on for three unanswered scores, and while GB responded with two of their own at the end, it wasn’t enough to prevent a 39-32 loss to the World Cup semi-finalists. Tim Thomas got three TDs and an XP, while Kenny Bello and Michael Bradley-Banski both got a TD. Kenny Bello, Dean Whittingslow and Matt Wilkinson also scooped interceptions.

The second game saw an even stronger start for the Lions. Fired up and ready to savage the much-fancied Austrians, GB surged out of the blocks and led 19-6 at halftime. However, Austria recovered from their early body blows to score two touchdowns, and got an interception off a late GB hurl to regain the advantage. Despite a statement first half against one of the tournament favourites, GB just lost out 20-19. However, they’ve demonstrated they can play with the best, and they’ll need that spark tomorrow, and hopefully in the knockout stages. Tim Thomas got two TDs, Kenny Bello grabbed one, and Kinder Mann came down with an XP.

GB’s women played the first of their two three-game days today, and seemed to be growing in each one. They’d played Israel before, and got on the board for their first tournament points against a more familiar opponent. Steph Warren came up with two touchdowns while Kellie Barrett opened her tournament account with a score. Sarah Wakelin added an extra point, while the defense showed improvement from day one. The final score was Israel 44 GB 19.

The second game against the French was a 33-12 loss in which GB held their opposition for long periods. France are one of the better teams in the women’s tournament, but after a strong start they found their path to the endzone a little harder to negotiate.

Austria are a handful in both the men’s and women’s classes, but GB held them to four touchdowns in the late game. GB’s day featured games against the current top three in the tournament table, but they’ve shown an ability to bounce back from defeat and give a better account of themselves each time.

Check out our Facebook page tomorrow for updates from tomorrow’s crucial men’s and women’s games.

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