For the second time in as many games, the Irish Wolfhounds, aka Team Ireland, relying on a tough-as-nails defense, have beaten Team Belgium by a one point score, after earning a 7-6 victory in a game played in Ostend, Belgium, this past weekend.
After falling behind early, Ireland fought back, with running back Jonathan Siri pounding the ball into the end zone early in the third quarter following an interception by DT Paddy Sweeney. The Wolfhounds defense did the rest.
In the game a year ago, Ireland ground out a physical win over the Belgians and this game was no different.
The Barbarians, playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, entered the game with confidence and scored early after being trapped deep in their own territory. Quarterback Tomasz Firszt connected with Eric-Junior Hiernaux for an 80 yard touchdown pass to grab an early 6-0 lead. However, the Wolfhounds blocked the extra point and that would ultimately spell the difference in the game.
The rest of the first quarter was a grind for both offenses. Penalties and mental mistakes cost both teams any momentum they were attempting to build.
Field position became critical and this is where Irish punter Tom Donovan’s big leg was important. Time and again, he pinned the Belgian deep in their own zone and was a key to the Irish win. He was named Team Ireland’s MVP for the game.
Neither team could gain an advantage and the half ended with Belgium holding onto the 6-0 lead.
Early in the third, Team Ireland’s defense read a Belgian screen pass to perfection and Sweeney picked off the pass rumbling down to the Barbarians 25 yard line. A few plays later, Siri barged into the end zone from five yards out to pull Ireland even, 6-6.
Marty Caskey made good on the extra point and the Irish took a 7-6 lead with plenty of time left in the game. But defenses held strong with the Irish getting the best chances to score, reaching the 20 yard line twice. They muffed a field goal attempt the first time and failed on a fourth and one the second time.
A last gasp drive by Belgium reached inside Irish territory with seconds to go but it fizzled out with the running back stepping out of bounds.
Next up for Belgium is a IFAF European Championship qualifier game against Israel on October 6.