Kew achieved an Australian first by winning their pool and progressing to the round of 16.
Having won one game and losing a second on countback the previous day, Kew faced the team from South East Paraguay conscious that a victory would clinch their position as group winners. It was a tight game with errors on both sides. Captain Philip’s final hero suicide shot on ball 10 clinched the win by denying ball 10 the opportunity to make a play. The final score was 9-8.
Through to the final knockout phase Kew played against the eventual runners up from Shanghai and were given a lesson in precision ball placement.
Canberra faced a final challenging game against a local team who had the finesse to handle the dry clay court. After establishing control the young Brazilian team kept Canberra out of the game.
Redcliffe played a Brazilian team who had been called in to the comp to replace a Chinese team that had failed to arrive. The locals were accurate with their touches and Redcliffe failed to achieve the rhythm they had demonstrated in their win on the first day of competition.
The lightening fast clay courts were a challenge for all the Australian teams. The days prior to the tournament had seen a lot of rain – and dry clay courts play very differently to the muddy ones seen in practice.
The final was between the Nippon Country Club Brazil (White) and Shanghai (Red), the team that had knocked out Kew in the round of 16.
Both teams played hold off and by the end of the first round only 5 balls were on the court -1,3,4,6 and 10. Red had control of gate 2.
In round 2, 5 came on with pivots in place but missed the pivot ball. 7 followed so all Chinese balls were in play. At this point no one was interested in scoring. It was all about jockeying for position. White gathered defensively in corner 1.
The first ball passed the second gate at 17 minutes into the game. 9 and 3 had passed gate 2 by the end of the round.
White scattered along line 1 as there was a risk of gate and touch by red. Reds gathered at 3 but in setting up put 7 out on the fast clay courts.
Brazil exploited the opportunity and sent 8 from line 1 to eliminate the reds. Ball 8 touched 9 but missed ball 1 on the line. Red slowly added points through the middle stages of the match. But an unfortunate double touch foul and an out-of-character missed shot at Ball 6 let White back in the game. Ball 6 touched 8 and the avalanche began.
With only 5 minutes remaining, Shanghai were leading 9 to 5 and the fervent Brazilian supporters were watching the clock anxiously and cheering the late Brazilian aggression.
Having achieved control, the Brazilian team gathered at gate 2.
The local crowd went wild as the Brazilians raced against the clock. Ball six sparked three balls through gate 2 and set a gate touch for 8. 8 scored the gate touch, moved 4, 6 and 10 to gate three then removed ball 9 from the line near gate 1. Ball 10 put 4, 6 and 8 through gate 3, before scoring gate 3 itself. The final Agari was icing on the cake. Brazil had scored 10 points in three balls to overturn the deficit and win by a comfortable margin in the end – though the margin overstated the closeness of the game.
The patience of the Brazilian team to set up their win was a lesson to all Australians in how to play the game at this level. The skill level demonstrated on the fast clay courts was outstanding and complemented the strategic duel. A clear feature of play at this level was the defensive positioning of clusters of balls when not in control of the gate.
Australian Gateball is improving slowly but surely…and we know what we have to practise!!!