Montenegro outgun Aussies 11-8 in classification game
7 August 2015
WATER POLO: The Australian men’s water polo team has gone down to Montenegro 11-8 in their classification stage match at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
The two teams had battled out a 5-all draw in the group stage of the tournament when the Aussie Sharks fought back from two goals down with a period to play, but as hard as they tried there was to be no comeback today.
Montenegro came into the tournament with high hopes of improving on their silver medal winning performance from the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona and with that chance gone, a win against Australia was the only acceptable way to make some amends and they came out firing from the opening whistle.
The Sharks will now play for seventh place against either reigning champions Hungary or the USA. Australia has not finished seventh or better at a world championship since Barcelona in 2003.
Consistency had been Australia’s hallmark this tournament but they couldn’t reproduce the same form against a very physical Montenegrin outfit, veteran driver Johnno Cotterill saying they hadn’t played at the same level as earlier in the two week competition.
“It was always going to be a physical game with both teams disappointed to be knocked out of the medals a couple of days ago,” Cotterill said.
“They were always going to come out ready and I think it was pretty apparent today that we didn’t play with the same speed and intensity that has been our trademark this tournament and that’s probably what let us down.
“I don’t think we were tired. I honestly believe we’re the fittest team here so I don’t think it’s an issue of tiredness, maybe we weren’t mentally prepared enough for the game.
“I don’t think we played up to our standards and we’ve been up to our standards all tournament and we probably let them drop a little today and that’s the difference when you play a quality team like Montenegro. If you’re a little bit lower and not ready for the game that’s what happens.”
Montenegro scored first after three minutes and had another after four minutes, their goals split by an Australian extraman goal to AJ Roach. The Sharks then had a tap in goal by Nathan Power, off a Roach pass, disallowed, only for Montenegro to add further salt into the wound by scoring at the other end via a third straight goal from outside six metres.
Things continued to go against Power and when he fouled his opposition with Australia in attack, only to then be excluded a few seconds later, Montenegro were able to capitalise in extraman and marched out to a three goal lead at the first interval.
Both teams scored an extraman goal in a pedestrian second quarter, Australia’s to Johnno Cotterill and at halftime the Sharks were still hanging on, down 5-2.
The first two and a half minutes of the third quarter was owned by Australia’s dual Olympian Richie Campbell who drilled home two straight goals in extraman to bring the Sharks within one and when goalkeeper James Stanton-French saved a penalty soon after the tide looked to be turning.
The teams then traded goals - Montenegro with a lob on counter attack, Aaron Younger with a cross cage backhander from two metres, the Europeans making their second penalty count and Younger again from seven metres out. Montenegro then broke the trend, scoring the next two to again lead by three going into the final break.
Cotterill scored on counter from the right wing three minutes into the last period, Montenegro hit back immediately with a rocket from outside by the always dangerous Mladan Janovic, then Tyler Martin earned an exclusion at centre forward followed by a tap in to score, but what the Sharks needed was a sustained soring run and it never came.
Janovic converted another penalty to again stop Australia’s momentum and the game was sealed.
Cotterill said he expects the seventh versus eighth playoff to be just as tough as the clash with Montenegro but the Sharks would be eager to leave Kazan with a victory.
“Whoever we play, its going to be a really hard game but we’ve made a lot of progress this tour so we don’t want to leave on a sad note,” the London Olympian said.
“We definitely don’t want to leave here with three losses in a row.”
The Australian women’s team will play Italy for bronze at 830pm local time on Friday (330am AEST on Saturday).
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 8 lost to Montenegro 11
Quarters: 1-4, 1-1, 4-4, 2-2
AUS Scorers: R Campbell 2, A Younger 2, J Cotterill 2, A Roach, T Martin