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USA catch Sharks off guard in battle for seventh

9 August 2015

WATER POLO: Australia has finished eighth in the men’s water polo competition at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia after going down 10-6 to the USA in their classification game on Saturday. 

The Aussie Sharks were in the game until halftime but the USA team embarked on an unanswered four goal run in the third quarter to put the game beyond reach.

The final Australian result mirrored the Sharks’ placing at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona but probably didn’t accurately represent their performances in Kazan where they went within four seconds of beating Greece in their quarterfinal and controversially lost to Serbia by a goal when two massive refereeing decisions went against them in the dying stages.

Australia has only finished better than eighth in a men’s world titles twice, the last time in 2003 when they placed seventh.

Aussie Sharks head coach Elvis Fatovic said Australia had put in an uncharacteristic performance and failed to deliver when it mattered.

“For us this game started four days ago with our preparation and it’s unfortunate to finish the tournament on this note,” Fatovic said.

“Today we didn’t look like a team and there were so many individual mistakes in defence. We were obviously empty as a team after the (quarterfinal) loss against Greece.

“In the start when we controlled the game we had a really good opportunity to lead by three goals but we weren’t able to.”

Fatovic said the Sharks came into the game emotionally spent but was not looking for excuses.

“You are tired at the end of the tournament and its very hard to control all that emotion and the things to be focussed on, but this was not something that we wanted, to lose,” Fatovic said.

“Five games we played excellent and then this is a bad way to finish.”

Johnno Cotterill and George Ford got the Aussie Sharks off to a flying start with goals in extraman inside the first two and a half minutes of the opening quarter before US captain Tony Azevedo got one back in extra.

Australia’s leading scorer of the tournament Aaron Younger was next to score, dialling up his first with a smart drive and via an even smarter pass from Mitch Emery, but again the Americans struck back in extraman and it was 3-2 to the Sharks at quarter time.

Both sides missed a bevy of extraman chances at the beginning of the second term but Azevedo made no mistake with a penalty called after Cotterill tried valiantly to nullify a fast US counter attack.

Nikola Vavic, familiar to many in Australian water polo after he helped guide the Hunter Hurricanes to their first National Water Polo League finals series last season, scored next in man-up for the USA to give them their first lead of the match at 4-3, a score the they maintained until halftime, despite three straight possessions on the attack leading into the intermission, including a double exclusion chance.

Azevedo had his third, another in extraman, two minutes into the second half and when teammates Bret Bonanni and Alex Bowen also scored in extra, the USA threatened to run away with things.

Nathan Power scored on the post in extraman with 30 seconds left in the period to stop the US run of goals but Australia still trailed by four at three quarter time. Until Power’s effort, the Sharks had gone almost 18 minutes of game time without scoring.

Things got worse early in the final stanza with Bowen and Azevedo stretching the US lead to six before Younger drilled home his second from outside on the right and Ford connected with Richie Campbell who put his chance away on the two metre to end the scoring for both teams.

Aussie Sharks: James Stanton-French (VIC), Richie Campbell (NSW), Nathan Power (NSW), George Ford (WA), Joel Swift (WA), Tyler Martin (NSW), Rhys Howden (QLD), Jarrod Gilchrist (NSW), Mitch Emery (NSW), Johnno Cotterill (NSW), Aidan Roach (NSW), Aaron Younger (WA), Joel Dennerley (NSW)

Result: Australia 6 lost to USA 10

Quarters: 3-2, 0-2, 1-4, 2-2

AUS Scorers: A Younger 2, J Cotterill, G Ford, N Power, R Campbell

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