This past weekend, a combined squad of Houston and Baton Rouge met to take on the Dallas Magpies and the Austin Crows in the annual Crawfish Cup in Dallas. This year, the winner of the Cup would be determined by a Nationals-style round-robin tourney.
Tactics heading into the tourney: focus, firstly, on tackling. Tackle hard. Tackle constantly. Work the ball up the flanks. Always find a loose man. Talk constantly.
The Tigers and Dallas lined up for the 10 am match before the Crows straggled in from their drive up from Dallas. Despite thunderstorms the night before, some morning sun blotted up the remaining water on the well-drained pitch and conditions promised to be fast at ground level. Unfortunately, a strong, unrelenting wind blew across the length of the field all day and if we are honest about thing, Mother Nature would clearly get best on ground. Only one goal was kicked against the smothering breeze all day.
With Tiger captain and fullback Rob Montanaro winning the toss, the Tigers elected to battle the conditions in the first half. This proved to be a questionable decision as the Tigers, a combination of veterans rusty from a 4-week gap between matches and debutants, wilted under the onslaught of a well-oiled Dallas squad and the unceasing wind. Dallas put up 9 goals in the first half from a variety of sources.
But despite being put under the pump early by the reigning premiers, the Tigers battled on. Minnesota James Kavanagh played admirably in his first match as centreman, applying defensive pressure and using his mobility to jumpstart some short-lived charges into the wind. Houston’s Justin Vaugh was a ball magnet and constantly prowled the packs.
Unlike previous encounters with Dallas, the Tigers never conceded the fight and played scrappy, if sloppy football once the initial shock of the wind and their opposition wore off.
In the second half, the Tigers immediately put the Magpies against the wall and the wind pinned them there. After spending the first half trying to turn the Magpie tide, the boys from Baton Rouge finally got a taste of some winning footy. Although the midfield and ruck struggled against the class of Dallas a bit, the Tigers held the Pies to a single behind for the half while working the ball upfield with some beautiful passages of play.
Across the board, the Tigers played much better in the second half, but few players stood out as match winners. Winger Flea Braud got plenty of the ball in his first match of the season. Houston’s Dan Holwerda and Matt Stevens chipped in some key ball movement and tackles. Rugby Ray Chastain showed why he’s a promising recruit at half forward with his ability to play space, find the ball, and turn-and-shoot.
But ultimately, although the Tigers played spirited, relatively clean football, they could only manage a single goal with the wind and were once again reminded of the hard work ahead to compete with clubs of Dallas’s stature.
Final Score: Dallas 9.4.58 to Baton Rouge 1.5.11
Best: Minnesota James Kavanaugh, Justin Vaughn, Dan Holwerda, Matt Stevens, Taylor Braud