Contributed by: Aaron Richard Sunday, October 29 2006 @ 10:10 am ACDT
In the curtain-raiser to the AFL's London exhibition match between Geelong and Port Adelaide, the British Bulldogs[*1] took the field for their only international match this year against Ireland, the traditional powerhouses of European Aussie Rules. The match saw the Irish get away to a very quick start, holding the British goalless until half-time. The Bulldogs dominated the second half however, getting back within 16 points midway through the last quarter. The match was stopped shortly thereafter when Britain's Jonny Dickson was stretchered off the ground, final margin a 22-point win to Ireland.
The day at the Oval also featured a juniors display from Aussie Rules UK, who showed off the recently-won King Canute Cup won in this year's first-ever juniors test between England and Denmark.
Speculation has recently begun to surface that the British Bulldogs may now have enough players available to consider putting together a "B" or development side to take on newer national teams like the Swedes, Spanish or Germans.
The following match report comes courtesy of BARFL President Ray Gazal.
Bulldogs strong but not strong enough
Conditions could not have been better for a rematch of last year's Challenge Cup curtain raiser when the Warriors of Ireland stepped onto the Brit Oval to face the home team the British Bulldogs in what is becoming somewhat of a traditional fixture. After some light early morning rain the sun was out and drying out the ground and after some tense moments the groundkeeper finally gave the go ahead for the curtain raiser to be played.
After the obligatory pre-match photo it was the Irish who started the game stronger, and although they dominated early possession, a strong Bulldogs backline limited their scoring. Finally posting two majors late in the quarter, the Irish took a thirteen point lead into quarter time and the Bulldogs proved their reputation for slow starts had more than an element of truth.
The quarter time address from Bulldogs coach appeared to go in one ear and out the other as the boys sat back and watched Ireland pile on 5 second quarter goals with captain Alan Coomey proving to be more than a handful in the centre, picking up a trolley of possessions and controlling mid field play.
Half time saw a reversal as the Bulldogs came out less fiery but more focussed and it suddenly starting coming together. The backline rebounded everything that came its way, with captain Jonny Boyle and centre half back Chris Glen sweeping everything to neutralise the Irish forwards. 8 third quarter scoring shots for the Bulldogs netted 3 goals as Andy Craig and debutant Chris Donnellan took control of the centre and John Dickson came on to shut down Coomey while his brother Chris provided linking run through the midfield, Andy Whiteaker and Richard Lucas provided strong targets up forward. Had the kicking been straighter, it could well have been a tighter margin at three quarter time.
The fourth quarter started the way the third ended, a quick goal to the Bulldogs putting it within three kicks and coming home with wet sails. A free kick from the centre bounce gave the Irish one back before tragedy struck when a fair shepherd laid at full tilt by an Irish flanker left Jonny Dickson unconscious and struggling for air. The medical team responded quickly and stabilised him before the stretcher got him to a waiting ambulance but the game was called off as Jon was transported to hospital for urgent attention.
Both teams were left wondering what might have been with ten minutes still left to play when the game was called. Jon is recovering well but missing his front tooth and nursing some bruising around his bicep and above his right ear where the impact was felt most.
Great Britain 0.1 - 0.2 - 3.7 - 4.7 (31)
Ireland 2.3 - 7.4 - 7.5 - 8.5 (53)