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Guernsey takes silverware at Touch World Cup

GUERNSEY returns home from the Touch World Cup as winners of the Mixed Open Bowl.

In what was its first time at the tournament, the island has finished ninth in the world and every player is returning home with a gold medal.

‘This is an amazing achievement and one which has exceeded all of our expectations. We have had a phenomenal tournament, every player has proved that they fully deserved to be part of this squad and every one of them can be extremely proud that they are returning home with medals and silverware,’ said Guernsey Touch chair Katrina Bray.

The five day tournament, which brought more than 100 teams from 27 different countries to Edinburgh, saw Guernsey seeded 10th at the beginning and they finished one place higher.

‘This was the first time ever that so many countries had competed in an international tournament so seeding the teams was an almost impossible task for the organisers. We were 10th but we knew there were much stronger teams below us but despite that we still managed to finish in the top 10 mixed teams in the world. That’s a phenomenal success when you consider that Guernsey was the smallest nation, in terms of size, taking part,’ said Bray.

The tournament started with a redraw of the games following the last minute withdrawal of Fiji and Papua New Guinea and so rather than face USA, Australia, England and Belgium as planned, Guernsey found itself in a pool with New Zealand, Belgium, Italy and Singapore.

The first game was against Belgium and despite the horrendous weather conditions, the team quickly put in practice what they had spent the last nine months learning. Justeen Baker was the first Guernsey player into the touchdown zone and was followed in the first half by Matt Brehaut, Sam Stables and Mark Rodliffe with Belgium scoring just once. In the second half, Stables scored twice more to claim a hat-trick and Clio Phelan scored Guernsey’s ninth. Belgium could again only score once to end the game 7 -2 in Guernsey’s favour.

The second game was against a spirited Italy but the Guernsey team kept their heads with Baker, Rodliffe, Stables and James Gavey all scoring once to make it 4 – 0 at half-time. The second half saw an even stronger performance from the Greens with Stables adding his fifth of the day, captain Ollie Ward, Carly Parrott, Alec Bailey and Chris Goddard all scoring once and Gavey adding two to take the score at full-time to 11 – 0.

The last game of the day was inevitable going to end in defeat as Guernsey came up against the top seed and reigning World Cup Mixed champions New Zealand. Phenomenal play from the Kiwis quickly saw them take the lead with the first half ending 8 – 0. Despite the tired legs, Guernsey defended well and looked set to score on a number of occasions but the champions showed how good they were with the final score ending 17 – 0.

In the last game of the pool, Guernsey met Singapore who took an early lead before Brehaut did a five metre dive towards the line to even the score. Singapore drew ahead to end the first half 3 – 2. In the second half, the play was evenly matched with Phelan drawing Guernsey level before Singapore took the lead once more and kept it until the last whistle. With two wins and two defeats, Guernsey finished the pool in second place behind New Zealand.

Guernsey’s first match of the second round was against England who have retained some key players for a number of years. England took an early lead putting four past Guernsey before Stables added another to his World Cup tally. Two more from England ended the first half 6 – 1.

In the second half England scored another five with Guernsey adding just one more through Richard Duchemin to end the game 11 – 2.

On the third day of the tournament, Guernsey met the USA and saw the Americans score two touchdowns before Guernsey settled into the game and pulled one back through Mark Rodliffe. USA scored once more to end the first half 3 – 1. Guernsey’s second half saw them dominate the scoring with touchdowns from Brehaut, Parrott, Aaron Le Masurier and Baker to give them five. USA scored twice more to tie the game. However the Americans disputed the score and claimed to have won the game 6 – 5 despite the referees agreeing the game was a tie. The matter was taken to a judicial hearing who ruled against USA and the 5 - 5 draw was confirmed.

Guernsey then played the home nation of Scotland and despite Parrott putting them ahead, Scotland scored the next four to take the lead. In the second half, Scotland added seven more with Rodliffe, Georgia Smith and Marie Stefani crossing into the touchdown zone for Guernsey to see the game end in a 11 – 4 win for Scotland.

The last game of the day was against the Pacific island of Niue who quickly scored three touchdowns before Parrott scored her third of the day. Another touchdown from Niue and one for Guernsey from Baker saw the first half end 4 – 2. The second half saw a repeat of the first half score with Niue adding four to take them to eight and Ward and Jemma Crouse each scoring to give Guernsey four.

Day four of the tournament saw Guernsey in the Mixed Open Bowl quarter finals and a rematch against Singapore. Injury ruled out Smith and Stefani meaning Guernsey played with nine men and just five women.

Having lost 3 -2 to Singapore in the preliminary round, Guernsey had everything to prove and played some excellent touch taking an early lead through Brehaut. Rodliffe and Parrott added two more to give the island a comfortable lead at the end of the first half.

In the second half, Stables added the fourth before Singapore answered with their first and only touchdown of the game. A second from Stables in the last few minutes of the game secured Guernsey’s place in the semi-finals where they met Switzerland.

In what is his first year playing touch for Guernsey, Stables used his pace to score two touchdowns in the first half, which together with one from Duchemin, put the island 3 – 0 ahead at half-time. In the second half, Stables added his third, there were two from Bailey and another from Parrott. Great defending kept Switzerland’s score to just one ending the game in a 7 – 1 win for the island and a final against USA, who they previously met in the second round.

Returning to pitch 4, which seemed to have brought Guernsey luck, the Mixed Open Bowl final attracted a good crowd who saw the island have a great first half. USA scored first before Guernsey answered with four touchdowns from Gavey, Phelan, Duchemin and Ward. The Americans scored once more before the half-time whistle to make it 4 – 2.

In the second half, Ward and Duchemin scored Guernsey’s fifth and sixth touchdown and Guernsey had a comfortable 6 – 2 lead. USA then had a comeback scoring three more before the final whistle ended the game 6 – 5 and gave Guernsey the win, the game and the trophy.

‘For the whole team to be presented with gold medals in front of 2,000 players and spectators from around the world will, I’m sure, be something the team never forgets. Lots of people have been really interested to know more about the island and after this result, there won’t be many in the touch world family who don’t know about Guernsey. The players have been amazing ambassadors for the sport but, more importantly, fantastic ambassadors for the island as a whole,’ said Bray.

GUERNSEY Touch has named a 16 strong squad to represent the island at the Touch World Cup next month.

It will be the first time that Guernsey has been represented at the five-day tournament which has attracted more than 100 teams from 28 different countries including Japan, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, France, Italy and Germany.

‘The 16 who have been chosen have worked incredibly hard over the winter and fully deserve their place in the team. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent the island on the world stage and everyone is looking forward to it,’ said Guernsey Touch chair Katrina Bray who will travel to the tournament as team manager.

Oliver Ward, Mark Rodliffe, Richard Duchemin, Matt Brehaut, James Gavey, Alec Bailey, Carly Parrott, Laura Cravo, Jemma Crouse, Justeen Baker and Marie Stefani, who all played for Guernsey’s Mixed team at the European Championship, have all been selected to play. They will be joined by 2010 ladies captain Clio Phelan, 2010 men’s captain Aaron Le Masurier and men’s player Chris Goddard. Sam Stables and Georgia Smith, more well-known for their football and hockey performances, will represent the island at touch for the first time.

‘The team is a mix of experience, pace and strategists and we are hoping to show that as the smallest nation of those attending that we have some talented and committed players,’ said Bray.

Guernsey has been seeded 10th out of 23 teams taking part in the Mixed Open division and has drawn America, Belgium, Australia and England in its pool. The team plays America, Belgium and Australia on Wednesday 22nd June before an early morning game against England at 7.40am on Thursday 23rd June. Teams will then be divided into a cup and bowl competition with fixtures being announced after the pool games.

‘There is no doubt that we have been drawn in a very competitive pool and even at this stage, we expect Australia to be a good bet for a finals place so we know that we have to go out onto the field prepared to play. There will be no second chances but it’s extremely exciting to be playing some of the best touch teams in the world,’ said Ward who has been coaching the team.

The team leaves Guernsey on Sunday 19th June with the tournament starting on Wednesday 22nd June. The sport’s governing body, Federation of International Touch, has asked all teams to be in Edinburgh to work with youngsters on Tuesday 21st June.