South Vets 11 – 6 England Lions
Woughton Pavilion, Milton Keynes, 31st May 2014
Milton Keynes LC again hosted the now annual North vs South lacrosse veterans game. This year’s game has extra significance as the England Lions over 50’s squad are heading to Denver USA in July to compete in the FIL2014 Festival, run alongside the main FIL2014 World Championships.
The Lions (in white), led by Rochdale’s Martin Humphreys, are almost all from Northern clubs and they pitted their skills against a slightly younger South Veterans squad, led by the baby of the bunch, Davey ‘Wavey’ Leach from the Hitchin club.
Whilst early possession was equal, the South scored the first three goals as the Lions defence were not organised and gave the South middies too much time and space to get into shooting positions. The South were also winning most loose balls and for a few minutes it looked like this game could be very one-sided. Then the Lions started getting their act together. Everyone on their squad had played at the highest level in their younger days so they all know how to play lacrosse. Patience on the ball allowed their midfield to switch up from defence to attack and they still have a few ball carriers who can dodge, spin and draw the defensive slide. Their first well constructed attack put them on the scoresheet, at 3-1. The South closed the opening quarter with a 4th goal before everyone took a well earned breather.
The second quarter was much more even, both teams moved the ball well and the Lions were definitely looking to score from the crease and hit the frame of the goal at least twice. Both teams were rotating their squads effectively to both ensure everyone got plenty of game time and to rest any tired legs. Fast break goals were a rare event today (I wonder why…?), none from the Lions but the South scored a couple and probably should of scored more given their midfield were more youthful and had a clear advantage in transition play.
Both teams used the full 10 minute half-time break with the South leading 6-2. The Lions, who are taking two goalies to Denver, swapped up the responsibility between the pipes. The weather in Denver in July is likely to be dry and hot, plus playing at altitude, the squad are likely to need two players for every position to cover the risk of injury and tournament tiredness.
Second half strategies seemed similar for both teams. Be more patient, spread out the oppositions defence and make the ball do more of the work rather than the legs. As both teams zipped the ball around you’d of been forgiven in forgetting this was a veterans game. The South still had more bite in attack though and pulled into a 9-3 lead at three-quarter time.
The Lions started a mini-comeback in the final quarter with two well constructed goals. Give any of the Lions sight of goal and they will probably score. The South stubbed out any miracle Cinderella-story victory by holding possession and eating up the game clock. They scored at the death to make the final score 11-6 to the South. From there, everyone hit the showers (plural, yes there were 3… we’ll ensure more changing rooms are open next time we play at Woughton), then into the bar for drinks, a splendid cold buffet and general lacrosse related banter.
Quarter Scores; 4-1 / 6-2 / 9-3 / 11-6
The Lions now will run a few more training sessions before flying over to Denver in July. They have elements of their game to improve on before they face the likely quality of the over 50’s American and Canadian squads so we wish them well for a successful, and more importantly, an enjoyable World Championships.
Finally let’s not forget to wish all the best for the main England national team who play in the ‘Blue’ (top) division alongside Australia, Canada, Iroquois Nation, Japan and the pre-tournament favourites and 2010 world champions, United States. It’s fair to say that the USA and Canada will be battling it out in the final but who takes 3rd place is the prize for the four other nations. See all competing nations in FIL2014.