The Dutch Lions grabbed an early lead they would not relinquish and defeated the Belgium Barbarians 17-3 in front of a packed crowd of 4,200 fans at RKC Mandemakers Stadium in Waalwijk, Holland Saturday. With the win Holland captured the last berth in the IFAF Europe Group B tournament to be played in 2016.
It was a perfect night for football and the crowd was reminiscent of the NFL Europe Amsterdam Admirals days as the packed stadium rocked with every Dutch advance. The Belgian contingent made itself heard too as this was a night of football to remember in Holland.
Holland’s offense struggled early and took needless penalties but still managed to move deep into Belgian territory before Tom van Duijin uncharacteristically missed a 21 yard field goal. Nevertheless, Belgian quarterback Tomasz Firszt fumbled the ball on the very next series giving the Lions excellent field position. Dutch quarterback Richard Bouthoorn made no mistake finding receiver Dylan von Gerhardt for the game’s first touchdown and Holland took a 7-0 lead.
Midway through the second quarter, after halting a Belgian drive deep into Dutch territory, quarterback Sven Janssen found a seam and scampered 80 yards to bring Holland into scoring range. But the Belgian defense stiffened and the Dutch had to settle for a 40 yard van Duijin field goal making the score 10-0.
Belgium then mounted a drive of their own as receiver Ruben De Ruyter hauled in a Tomasz Firszt 31 yard pass and the Barbarians were knocking on the door. But they could get no further than the nine yard line and Hadrien Godichal kicked a field goal to put Belgium on the board finally and Holland went into the break with a 10-3 lead.
The Lions came out in the second half dominating Belgium’s offense forcing a turnover on downs which the Lions capitalized on. Bouthoorn guided his team down to Belgium’s eight yard line and running back Miquel Castelen scored on the following play giving Holland a 17-3 lead.
Holland’s defense continued to stymie the Barbarians in the fourth quarter. A late interception by safety Job van der Klei ended any hopes for a Belgian comeback and Holland began celebrating after a year’s preparation.
One of the keys to the victory was the play of Holland’s defense, particularly one of the mainstays, linebacker Kevin Bourne:
“This is incredible. It’s amazing how we all played together with pride in wearing these orange jerseys. Not only the players but also the organization that put this together. This is a fantastic boost for the sport in the Netherlands. “
For many Amsterdam Admirals fans this game was a trip back in time. They came to see an international football game for the first time since 2007 and they were not disappointed. The festivities started early and the victory by Holland topped off a wonderful night of football, not only for Holland, but for Europe as well.
The win gave Holland the final berth in IFAF Europe’s Group B tournament next year where they will join Israel, Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, Serbia, the Czech Republic and Russia.