Tournoi Jacques Lévy Lille 13-15 March 2015

Scottish Thistles travelled to Lille for the annual tournament, now renamed the Jacques Lévy tournament after the death of Jacques in 2014. Two wins and two clean sheets against Zestigplussers (2-0) and France B (1-0) set up a group decider at noon on Saturday 14 March against England LX, who also recorded two victories without loss on the first day. With the chance already gone of first place in the group after England LX won their first match of the day, Scottish Thistles acquitted themselves well but went down 1-0 for their first reverse. The final group match against Alliance finished 1-0 for Thistles, who were already assured of second place in the group. The semi final against Welsh Dragons on Sunday 15 March finished 0-0 and Thistles went down 2-1 in the penalty shoot out, with Downie the only one to convert. A tiring side, Thistles lost the 3rd-4th place playoff to France A by 1-0 and finished in fourth place.

The tournament was won by a strong England LX side. Four of the Scottish Thistles players also played in a 'match amicale' between two teams of players in moustaches, in honour of the late Jacques Lévy.

Squad

Back row: Ogilvie, Mackenzie, Robbie Robertson, Paterson, Parker, Brian Moore (Umpire), Donald Dunbar
Front row: Downie, Pearce, Smith (Captain), Watson, Loudon.

Tournament Draw

Scottish Thistles were drawn in Pool A with Alliance, England LX, France B and Zestigplussers (Netherlands) and all pool matches were played on Friday and Saturday. Play offs followed on Sunday against the Pool B teams: 1 v 2, 2 v 1, 3 v 3, 4 v 4 and 5 v 5. The winners of the matches between first and second contested the final on Sunday afternoon and the losers played off for third and fourth places.

The other group included Eburons Tungri (Belgium), Egypt, France A, Italians and Welsh Dragons.

Fixtures and Results

Friday 13 March

Scottish Thistles 2 (Ogilvie, Watson) Zestigplussers 0

Scottish Thistles began the tournament brightly, with strong running from Loudon and Ogilvie in the centre of midfield a feature of the early play. Parker and Paterson on the right were combining well with Loudon down the Scottish right flank and it was from this combination that a Paterson cross found Ogilvie free in the circle to score an early goal to settle the nerves. It was one way traffic and Thistles should really have made it four or five if shots from Watson and Ogilvie had been on target. However the goal came when Watson in his usual position outside the left hand post scored the second goal. Ogilvie was very unlucky when the umpire whistled for a short corner to Thistles as his shot was on the way into the net and the match finished 2-0 to the Scots.

Scottish Thistles 1 (Watson) France B 0

Once again it was one way traffic, Pearce in the Scottish goal having no part to play in the match to claim his second shut out of the tournament. The French had obviously done their homework and prevented the Thistles right hand attack from dominating as they had done in the previous match, but Watson popped up early on to score what turned out to be the winning goal and only a combination of strong French defence and inaccurate shooting kept the score down. All the same, with only a one goal lead, there was always the chance of a French breakaway goal. The Scots eventually resorted to keeping the ball in the corners, Paterson in particular managing to hold off his French opponents for an eternity in the right hand corner. The 1-0 win left Scottish Thistles level with England LX ahead of their match the following day.

Saturday 14 March

Scottish Thistles 0 England LX 1

The scoring system of three points for a win and a point for each goal scored up to three meant that England LX were already out of reach of Scottish Thistles even if they won this match. In the event, the play was mainly in the Scottish half but the English found it difficult to break down the Scottish defence, and Watson was always a threat for Thistles when his midfield colleagues managed to find him high up the pitch. The only goal came when a loose ball in the Scottish Thistles circle was met with a partial mishit good enough to elude keeper Pearce. The Scots put up stiff resistance and restricted the English forwards to half chance and the match finished 1-0 to England LX.

Alliance 0 Scottish Thistles 1 (Loudon)

Results elsewhere meant that Scottish Thistles had already secured second place in the group but they still wanted to win and to play good hockey. The match was even more one sided than the first match of the day, this time in favour of Thistles, who pressed strongly throughout the match; Alliance rarely got the ball into the Scottish half and sweeper Downie spent most of the match well into the Alliance half. Anything which got past him was easily mopped up by the back three of Smith, Mackenzie and Robertson. Pressure alone is not enough to win matches and Thistles were guilty of doing things in too much haste up front, with the result that, as the game wore on, it began to look as if they were never going to score. However a goal finally came from a top quality move involving four players. Downie picked up the ball in the Alliance half and fed Ogilvie, who in turn passed to Watson, whose cross found Loudon one on one with Alliance keeper Herbert. Loudon kept his head and drew the keeper before slipping the ball past him to give the Scots a much deserved lead, and the match finished 1-0 in favour of Scottish Thistles.

Sunday 16 March
England LX 1 France A 0 - S1

Neil Mackenzie with broken ankleWelsh Dragons 2 Scottish Thistles 1 (0-0 FT) Downie (pen) - S2

There is never much in a game between the Welsh and the Scots and it was the same in this match. Most of the play took place in the midfield and both defences restricted the opposition to no more than sporadic forays into the circle. Thistles, with no substitutes available, began to show signs of tiredness and their usual midfield domination was absent. All the same, they pushed forward and regained control of the midfield but their efforts were thwarted when Mackenzie went over on his ankle and hobbled off, leaving the Scots with only ten players for the last ten minutes. Even so, they redoubled their efforts and went at the Welsh, but to no avail and the match ended 0-0. A penalty shoot out followed with three Scots volunteering to take the penalties: Watson, Downie and Loudon. Unfortunately only Downie's effort counted and Dragons efficiently converted both their penalties to end the match 2-1 winners, leaving Scottish Thistles to play France A for third place.

Neil Mackenzie's injury was more serious than it had seemed because when he returned home he was found to have broken his ankle. He was due to have a cataract operation that day and the NHS turned up trumps by setting his ankle in plaster and carrying out the cataract operation on the same day.

 

France B 0 Egypt 2 - places 9 & 10
Alliance 0 Eburons Tungri 1 (0-0 FT) - places 7 & 8
Zestigplussers 2 Italy 0 - places 5 & 6
France A 1 Scottish Thistles 0 (places 3 and 4)

With Mackenzie sidelined, Thistles recruited an Alliance player to take his place in the third place final. The Scots started brightly, looking strong down the left, but France had some good players in key positions and were much fresher than the flagging Thistles players. The basic skills of the French were a lesson to the Scottish players - any loose ball was stopped dead on a defender's stick and the French passing was crisp and accurate. The Thistles defence resisted well but the constant French pressure resulted in two short corners in quick succession. The loss of Mackenzie as no 1 runner told when, from the second short corner, a French strike was deflected off the stick of no 2 runner Smith past Pearce to put France A 1-0 up, a lead which they defended to the end. Scottish Thistles finished fourth in the end, a disappointing result after some really good hockey on the opening day.

England LX 2 Welsh Dragons 0 (places 1 and 2)