Australia has advanced to a 5th place playoff with a gritty 16-8 win over Brazil at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Ohio.
In a do-or-die matchup which could have ended Australia’s IFAF World Championship campaign, they managed to survive Brazil’s advances time and time again after the Outback registered all of their points in the first quarter.
Defensive end Carlisle Jones was named Australia’s MVP after a dominant first half (4.0 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, pass deflection), whilst linebackers Ryan Ottens (6.5 tackles), Brad Bennett (6.5 tackles) and safety Damien Molloy (5.5 tackles) managed to have big games on defence.
They needed these performances too; Brazil’s offence sprung into life and controlled possession in the last three quarters (21:14 to 14:46) to continuously press for points, but repeatedly fell short as Australia bent but did not break.
On numerous occasions throughout the second half Brazil, on the back of great quarterback play from Rhudson Fonseca (7/12, 89 yards) and Rodrigo Dantas (11/21, 126 yards, TD, INT), managed to build drives that worked their way past midfield but hit a mental roadblock once they got near the redzone.
Brazil finally broke their scoring drought with 3:08 remaining in the final quarter through a 10-yard fade route touchdown, yet by that point the Oncas had used up the last of their physical and mental energy.
It was a stark contrast from the opening quarter where Australia flexed their muscles; on the second play of the game Stegman managed to loft the defence on a scramble play to find Matt Riles for the 58-yard touchdown. 10 minutes later, Lansdel (53 yards from 11 carries) doubled the advantage from 4 yards out, and the Outback were seemingly on their way to a comfortable victory.
After both touchdowns were finished with two-point conversions, Australia led 16-0 at quarter time. From there they barely approached the redzone as they were forced to rely on their defence to retain their lead.
Fonseca and Felipe Fernandes (3 catches for 71 yards) struck up a dangerous partnership in the second quarter, before tight end Romulo Ramos (7 catches for 101 yards) barged his way through on underneath routes.
Brazil’s intensity and drive outweighed Australia’s, and after the match, Head Coach John Leijten was full of praise for the Brazillians.
“We made it hard on ourselves, but credit also goes to Brazil. They started a bit slow but once they got into it they stopped our offence… They’ve only played football for seven years, but when you look at these guys, they’ll have a great future.” Leijten said.
Running back Nate Lansdel highlighted the Oncas increased effort and defensive pressure as one of the main reasons the Outback struggled in the last three quarters offensively.
“Brazil just lifted. I think they knew what was at stake, and they played with a lot of heart. They did bring a lot more pressure, and came down a lot harder defensively. After they played us lightly earlier on, they just starting shooting gaps and we couldn’t execute from there.” Lansdel said.
However, the ability to get the win in a tight game was what stood out most for Leijten.
“Still very proud of our guys, we kept pushing. We didn’t do too much (on offence) but then special teams and defence steps up and gets us the team win.” Leijten said.
“It’s important for us as a nation that we learn to play 48 minutes and finish a game; first game was over at the half, the second game was also over at the half but in a negative way, and now this game we had to keep playing 48 minutes. That gives confidence to you being able to close out a game.”
Australia plays South Korea on Saturday at 12pm local time (Sunday 2am AEST).
Written by Chris Guscott – @Chris_Guscott