Australia has finished fifth in the 2015 IFAF World Championship after defeating South Korea 42-14 in the fifth place match at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Ohio.
After Australia easily handled South Korea in its opening round clash, it took a fair greater effort this time around to seal the victory. South Korea outgained Australia in total yardage through the first three quarters, and it took a calm and collected drive midway through the final quarter to help finish the job at hand.
Prior to that, South Korea had managed to crawl it’s way back from 20-0 down to steal the momentum and come within 13 points (27-14). And whilst 13 points is not typically the margin of a close game, South Korea’s offence was beginning to threaten.
Quarterback Jared Stegman (18/27, 224 yards, TD) was once again fantastic as he earned his second match MVP award, and his terrific performance helped receivers Daniel Strickland (5 catches, 88 yards, TD) and Tyson Garnham (9 catches, 70 yards) wreak havoc for the South Korean defence.
South Korea’s offence was much improved from their opening round loss, with quarterback Tae Hoon Kim (6/18, 136 yards, TD, 3 INT) consistently finding targets deep downfield at pivotal times to trouble the Outback. Wide receiver Sang Hong Kim (4 catches, 140 yards, TD) was a consistent deep threat throughout the contest.
However, Hoon Kim was forced to take plenty of risks to try and keep his team in the game and paid the price as defensive backs Damien Donaldson, Paul Mamotte and Scott Wolfe all got interceptions for Australia.
It was his own error which kick-started the early charge from the Outback; following a poor kickoff return which had the South Koreans starting on their own 3-yard line, they botched the handoff on an inside run play and lost possession.
Australia took the gift and had Nate Lansdel (8 carries, 36 yards, TD) convert from 3 yards out. Suddenly the Outback had a 7-0 lead inside 14 seconds.
From there, following two screen passes which gained them 67 yards, they extended their advantage through a remarkable 6-yard touchdown run from Conor Foley, in which he managed to evade multiple tackles behind the line of scrimmage before fighting his way over the endzone line.
The hot start from Australia cooled down when the match settled; Australia’s early momentum vanished as South Korea managed to even out the contest, and it took some quick thinking for the match to be broken open again.
With 2:27 remaining in the half, Hoon Kim’s deep pass was intercepted by Donaldson at the Australia 22-yard line, and after an 18-yard return, he was about to be brought down. Then he reacted.
He flicked out a lateral to teammate Calvin Young, and with the South Koreans caught by surprise, he managed to race down the sideline to return the interception for the touchdown. From there, the match was sparked back to life.
South Korea added their first touchdown of the match, and their first offensive touchdown in tournament history, shortly after with a 39-yard pass from Hoon Kim to Hong Kim. On the other side of the halftime break, Stegman found Strickland for a 37-yard touchdown pass. The energy and excitement levels had lifted.
It was from that point that South Korea began to control the contest; they strung together a 14-play drive which ended in a touchdown, before they managed to prevent multiple field goal attempts from Australia.
Stegman stepped in, and lead a 7-play drive of his own to not only steady the tide, but to seal the match with a 7-yard touchdown run. Australia could finally breathe easily.
After the match, he was pleased with how he was able to remain focused in such an important moment.
“In previous games I haven’t remained focussed on that drive. That was my goal; to take every play as it came and do my job on that play. I was telling myself to do my job, check my reads and just think about nothing else.” Stegman said.
“We really wanted it because that’s how we are as Australians. We’re never going to give up, we want to fight to the end or the final whistle on every play.”
Overall, Head Coach John Leijten was happy to look at both the result and the tournament as a whole.
“Same opponent, same result. It was a good win because of the numbers on the scoreboard, but it was an ugly win if we look at all of the mistakes we made… All’s well that ends well as we got a record of 3-1, which is the best result we’ve ever had at a World Championship.” Leijten said.
As for what he thought about the lateral?
“Those are the sorts of plays we wanted to use when we played teams like Mexico and France because you have to make the most of every opportunity and get on the scoreboard. But it’s also fun, and as a coach you stand there and think “…okay.” All’s well that ends well though.”
Written by Chris Guscott – @Chris_Guscott