MATCH REPORT: Texas Cup Rd.1, Karbach Cup Houston, May 17 2014

The up and coming Houston Lonestars hosted former Div 1 champions Austin and Dallas at Cullen Park in Houston on Saturday May 17 for the inaugural Karbach Cup, the home leg of the 2014 Texas Cup.  A warm and windy day made conditions difficult with a 6 goal breeze blowing straight down the ground toward the northern end of the SCG-sized field.  Over 60 fans came out to support the Lonestars, with several Dallas and Austin fans making the journey to watch the three-way tournament, enjoying a bbq expertly manned by Bert Stevens & Q with beers provided by Karbach Brewery.  All teams were well represented with the Lonestars fielding almost 30 players, Austin with ~25 and Dallas with 18 players making the journey.  The ever-reliable Shaun Whitehouse umpired for the last time before returning to Australia after 4 years in Houston.  Nate Lane and Rob Guydosh also shared the umpiring duties.

Game 1 - Houston v Dallas
Houston:  4.9.33
Dallas:   5.9.39
Houston Best: T.Donnelly, Holub, Chisholm, Edge, Stevens, Ruggles, Power
Game 1 of this big event was 12pm between the emerging home side and a stalwart Dallas line-up and started in expected bruising, physical fashion, with Houston kicking with the strong southerly breeze.  Winning plenty of the ball in the middle through dominant ruck work from Matt Holub, Coach Rix was frustrated with the poor entry into the forward line seeing his chargers fail to utilize the advantage.  
Dallas were damaging through the midfield managing 2.2 goals against the breeze with inaccurate conversion from the Lonestars resulting in only 2.7 in the first half.  The back line was as solid as Fort Knox with Edgy, Art, Ruggles and Matt Stevens keeping the high quality Dallas forward line very accountable.  The midfield of Pete, Justin, Fielder and Stu struggled to match the run and physicality of the Dallas midfield, and coaches Dan and Rix pleaded for more intensity and accountability in the second half. Tom Donnelly, Chisi and Matty Holub all put solid first half performances to keep the home team in touch.
The second half saw the Lonestars midfield step up and control more of the clearances through Chisi, Justin, Stu and Ben Power working hard to build momentum against the hurricane force wind.  The ever reliable backline stepped up again, with Edge and Stevens sharing the loose-man role and completely cutting off supply to the Dallas full forward line, well supported by Art and Ruggles. Matt Holub and Tom Donnelly ruled the skies and the forwards stepped up to kick a few goals into the wind, led by veteran forwards Dan and Dougie.  Chisi was damaging whenever he was near the ball and Stu played hard footy in the middle to turn the tables. Dougie Hill also started showing form of yester-year providing a strong target up forward.
The game was tight through most of the second half, with teams trading goals until Dallas broke against the flow on the last play of the game and scored an easy goal in the dying seconds to take the game by 6 points.  The Lonestars clearly showed they had come a long way already this year playing a strong game of footy and if only had converted in the first half would likely have won the game.  This gave the boys a strong lift ahead of the huge game against Austin in the third game of the day, which the boys couldn't wait to arrive!
Game 2 - Austin v Dallas
Austin: 9.10.64
Dallas: 2.5.17
This game was dominated by Austin piling on 7 goals to nil putting the game beyond doubt in the first half.  The fresh legs were evident as the Austin running game overpowered the usually strong Dallas midfield.  The second half was more even, with Austin maintaining its lead against the breeze, continuing to run the ball using it better than Dallas.  Austin took out the game confortably by 47 points.
Game 3 - Houston v Austin
Houston:  7.4.46
Austin:   9.10.64
Best: Power, T.Donnelly, Holub, Livingston, Bryant
After 50 minutes break time in the heat of the south Texan sun I must admit I was worried; not because of the lack of hydration, moreso that a few of the Lonestars used this opportunity to get a first coat on their otherwise pasty torsos. Further, I did catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye that a few of our star players were trying to use the break to inhale a hot dog or two whilst doing a poor job of hiding it from the coaching team. I did think 'tsk tsk, what would Riewoldt think?'. But then again, he does love a hot dog (and according to his wife, Tex Mex cheese dip) so I put this aside and refocused on the warm up.
As is always the case with a young keen group such as ours that we tend to warm up a little early prior and then have that awkward period where you have geared your team mate into a frenzy and given out far beyond your quota of ass taps only to be forced to fidget quietly, trying not repeat what the guy next to you just said and keeping your game face on - all in the face of that delicious hot dog waft tingling your nostrils. 
Coach R was worried but we kept it together.
And did the Lonestars come out fighting? Oh yes we did!!
To face a team that has just casually kicked 7 goals in a half of football is a worrying proposition. However, we stuck to our three focuses well: 1) unrelenting pressure and doing anything to stop your opponent, 2) kicking long to a safe location when in doubt, 3) voice (Coach R: "What kind of voice?", Team in Unison: "Instructional!").
The first delight I had was the adherence to the pressure rule. Here was Austin, our supposedly star studded Div 1 champion, kicking with a six goal breeze and having a tough time getting a decent centre break and clean forward entry. At our end, our incredible forward pressure was keeping the ball in, giving the mids a break and wearing out their backs. Two contested goals (Paul M with one to add to his collection) were the result and it is not the first time you will hear me tell you forward pressure wins games. The enforcer Art was joined by his new companion in blocks and hard hits, Nick (sans Beard), and together they frightened the wits out of Austin mids who became more and more interested in skirting packs or going in with arms only not the whole body.
The second term rolled on as the first began, however this time the trio of Tom, Ben and Matt H started to get the midfield humming. The tip over the top to Ben P and the quick centre clearances were sublime. Dave Bryant moved back to perform a role on their loose man and before you know it he had juggled a 1.5 handed contested mark through the centre of the pack and come out with a goal. Chisi also was damaging in this role and rebounded well. The big man brigade was scary in flight and Tom pulled down more than one crashing mark just to really let Austin know that while they're keepin' it weird, we've arrive on the scene. Edgie performed a Dustin Fletcher go go gadget arm spoil to further lift the team while Ruggles maintained his dominance and dependability deep in defence. Alliteration say what? Snoop would probably prefer dominizzle deep in defenshizzle. Whatevs.
So with a bench of 10+ we had depth but unfortunately rotations were hard work on the guys. I can't congratulate the team enough; it was a purely selfless act that blokes were prepared to go hard and then rotate out for the benefit of the team. Well done gents. 
At the end we went down by 18 points by this margin in no way reflected our intensity, our desire nor the message to Austin that they should be worried. Can't wait for the next encounter lads - Lonestars are on the move.
Thanks Austin and Dallas for coming down and making the day a successful hit-out.  All 3 teams will surely have an impact come Nationals in October.  A huge thanks to Shaun Whitehouse for supporting the Lonestars as our main umpire and keeping things fair and consistent on the field for the last few years.  The BBQ was a huge hit for the fans, so a big thanks to Bert and Q for cooking, serving and entertaining the crowd.  Lastly, thanks to the Fans who came out and supported all teams in force - we hope you enjoyed the day and hope to see support grow even further as the sport grows in Texas.
Go Lonestars!!

Training Cancelled - Go directly to Phoneix on Westheimer

Due to the dodgy weather, lets head indoors to our wonderful sponsor pub The Phoneix on Westheimer.  See you there shortly (from 4pm)!