Mother Nature called a halt to proceedings between the Dutch Lions and Team Ireland Saturday as officials were forced to abandon the game midway through due to imminent lightning strikes at Mandemakers Stadion, Waalwijk.
The Lions were leading 20-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.
It was a seemingly disappointing end to an event that promised a great spectacle. With Team Ireland playing in their first ever international fixture and the Lions in need of game practice ahead of their IFAF European qualifiers, both sides would have desperately been hoping to have seen the game out to the end.
Despite the several postponements throughout the match to the misfortune of everyone involved, spectators did get to see two solid quarters of football between two improving sides. The Lions who play the Czech Republic on September 16th, were missing a number of key starters, but still had a lot of talent on show. They continued to rotate players in and out over the course of the game with their technique, experience and squad depth demonstrating why they are one of the top nations in Europe.
Ireland were not to be outdone however as although they lacked experience at the top level, they more than held their own over the three quarters and produced a fine performance that they can be proud of.
In the opening quarter of the bout, possession would be traded. The Irish started with the ball on offence but their drive came to a grinding halt, undone by a fumble that allowed the Lions to take over. Despite the initial hiccup, Ireland settled down and the defence stood up to the mark and shutdown the Lions first drive. Communication issues appeared to have the Lions startled in the opening exchanges.
It didn’t take long for them to correct that however, as the Netherlands would tally the first score of the game. With the Lions finding some rhythm, running back Kevin Wesseling broke coverage and scored the opening touchdown of the bout with Rody Vink converting the extra point. Pre-game nerves could have crept into the Irish camp as on the resulting kickoff, the Lions struck again.
The Dutch special team unit forced a turnover as the Lions would be gifted the ball in excellent field position. Ireland were soon made to pay for their mistake as running back Miquel Castelen finished the move off by rushing his way into the end zone. The PAT was missed however as the Netherlands would possess a 13-0 lead.
Ireland continued to fight back and would not be deterred by the scoreline. Heading into the break, it was the ‘Wolfhounds’ that started to apply the pressure. A well executed fake punt offered a spark to the offence which started to see Team Ireland hit their stride. The momentum seemed to be in their favour but that hope soon faded. A loose pass was intercepted by defensive back, Dennis de Wit who took it the opposite direction for 6 points. The resulting PAT was successful as the Lions would boast a healthy 20-0 lead at halftime.
Unfortunately, this is when the match would come to an end. Despite several attempts to restart the game, the weather had played havoc with conditions and the safety of the players had to come first. The game may have finished early, but it was still an exciting occasion for players from both camps to take part in a special occasion.
The Lions focus will now turn to September as they continue to work hard towards their qualifiers in the United Kingdom next month. For Team Ireland, they can now take time to reflect on their opening game on the International stage and plan stage 2 of their development.
Both sides will still take plenty away from the game and much can be learned from this exhibition game; but it feels like there is some unfinished business left between these two.