Team USA vs Team Canada
This game started as a Fury blowout. They went up a quick and easy 5-2, scoring easily and converting some basic execution errors from the Canadians. Then slowly, the narrative began to change. A long stretch of trading down-winders ensued as the Capitals began to score on offense and give their defense a chance to pick up a break. Using size and speed respectively, Lundgren and Lovatt began to assert themselves. The U of Ottawa trio of Mercier, Fortin and Benedict was composed against a couple points of Fury’s junk defenses.
The real story at the end of the first half and the entire second half was the intensity of the Canadian defense. They put away everything else and played hard-nosed force forehand, with a small adjustment on how they were defending the American handlers. Instead of playing on the high side, defending the up-the-line and leaving a little crack for the swing, they well and truly face guarded, daring the Fury handlers to go up-field. Fury did make some attempts, but the cuts were half-hearted. Other than a couple Ness Fajaro backhands (she’s a lefty) the Fury handler set was largely shut down by this adjustment and they gave the Capitals an astonishing number of short field turnovers. Another oddity I noticed was that Fury’s offense in this game, which traditionally uses cutter-motion to generate openings for the handlers, was really relying of handler motion to generate openings for the cutters. Had the Fury cutter system been working as it traditionally does, the face-guarding of the Capitols would given up ladder-pass after ladder-pass. Instead, the Capitols were able to front and overload the unders, making it really difficult for Team USA to make any progress.
On the offensive side of the ball, Team Canada’s handlers played great with Mercier and Lovatt leading the way. (No surprise there.) They didn’t often have to go the full field, but when they did their cutters, notably Kidd and Werry, chewed big yards.
This win helps Canada more than it hurts Fury. They needed to change the narrative from one where they were outsiders looking in at the Japanese and Americans. Having done that, they can more forward as equal contenders. For Fury, their narrative over the years has always been improvement and experimentation is more important that winning until it matters. It will be easy to fit this game into that storyline.
Australia vs France
Totally different look from the Australians this morning as they destroyed the French 17-8. It was a close game early with only 6 total turnovers going into the second half, but that would be as close as the French would get. The Australians ramped up their defense and continued to convert the easy (offense had no turns and no breaks) and the difficult (game winner came on a Middleton to Isherwood greatest.) It is hard to say how much this game means yet, but Australia definitely has come together and is hitting on all cylinders. They have tough test tomorrow morning against the Swedes which will go a long way to determining the landscape for the coveted Semifinals spot.