With bright sunshine warming the expanses of the Western Oval at Royal Park, the Swedish Elks lined up against the Japan Samurais for the 11th place play off.
In a tightly contested first quarter, the Elka were wasteful with four behinds to the Samurais one goal, one point.
The sole goal for the quarter was to Japan’s Ikeda (#32).
The second term saw the action heat up and the game open up. The Swedes snared an early goal to Rickard Barrefelt (#18), taking the lead.
Japan fired back, firstly a boundary throw in clearance saw the ball in the hands of Raku Shimokawa (#21) who kicked truly across his body for a nice goal.
Minutes later, Japan again cleared to space, looking dangerous and finding Takaaki Seto (#23) in the clear for another long snap on goal.
Not to be outdone, some strong marking in a passage of play by the Elks found Barrefelt again on the end, and with a strong mark he duly went back and kicked the much needed goal to stay in touch.
Japan threatened again before the long break, forcing errors which saw the siren sound with Sweden narrowly leading by five points.
The third quarter was an arm wrestle.
Again the Samurais looked dangerous but were wasteful early, firstly big Ken Sato (#13) marking the Swedish clearance and sending the ball forward to Saito (#6) who marked but missed from close range.
Back up the other end and a free kick in front of goal gave the Elks’ Stahl (#6) an easy conversion and again the game was closed right up midway through the term.
The only further goal for the term was an error from Andreas Svensson who took on too many Samuarais defenders and was forced to concede a free to Kuno (#8) whose goal gave the Japan a handy lead at the last break.
In the last quarter, the Swede’s looked the sharper side in the early play.
Elks’ skipper Johan Lantz (#4) followed up a team mates dropped chest mark near the goal square by laying a rewarded tackle on the unlucky Sato. The resultant goal again locked up the game.
Full of beans, Lantz’s next short was a long snap from the boundary that was touched over the line.
Shortly after Barrefelt’s fine left foot snap from deep in the pocket found the unguarded goal and suddenly the Swede’s had reversed the three quarter time deficit.
This proved the decisive goal. The Swedes managed one more behind while the Japanese, who were starting to look beaten instead responded strongly to get back into the game.
There were some small delays as the players from both sides went in hard with a player from each side being carried from the ground after separate incidents on opposite sides of the field.
The Samurais lost Saito after a super solid hip and shoulder clash with Sweden’s Lowenborg (#17).
Ruckmen Koinberg (#30) and Terasawa (#35) continued to battle it out as the hotly contested ball resulted in successive packs and bounced resumptions.
With several shots by the Samurais on goal in the last few minutes, including one on the full by big Elk Nozaki (#24) and one wide the other way to Samurais Seto resulted in a succession of behinds.
In the end the Samurais fell short by just four points after fighting fiercely in the dying minutes but failing to score the winning goal.
The Elks were jubilant, and the Samurais, especially the tireless big fellow Ken Sato were devastated.
The game was a cracker and full credit to both sides.
Goal Kickers: R. Barrefelt 3, J. Lantz , T. Stahl
Best Players: R. Barrefelt, E. Sahlin, E. Aberg, G. Bondeau, D. Koinberg, M. Valemark
Goal Kickers: K. Ikeda , R. Shimokawa , K. Komura , Y. Kuno
Best Players: M. Sakaki, K. Sato, M. Nakamura, H. Terasawa, H. Ono, Y. Kuno