Valencian star Diego Larraz shines as EULC triumph over Oxford
Men's Lacrosse Varsity, 23/01/19
Exeter 1s - 12
Oxford 1s - 9
The international quality of Exeter Lacrosse Club’s offense proved too much for Oxford in EULC’s varsity fixture on the rubber crumb on Wednesday, as the home side emerged 12-9 winners.
“It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish” were the words of Dan Jeannotte, and these are the words that hold true not just on the game on Wednesday but of the season as a whole: the men in green blighted by injuries to key players and some harsh results, managed just on win their first five games and until they played Surrey in November, they still stood a chance of being relegated.
But victory there has kickstarted a three-match winning run which has seen Exeter leapfrog Cardiff, and only sit behind Oxford on goal difference.
The ebb and flow of their season was summer up aptly in this thrilling match, leading 6-3, trailing 6-7 and ultimately earning a three-goal lead at 10-7 they would not relinquish.
They took their time to establish control, but when Exeter did settle, they showed what an exciting team they are to watch with a dynamic and attractive style of play that got the crowd off their feet. Whilst Oxford were dithering a little, failing to take their chances through a combination of solid defence, some sensational goalkeeping from Thibauld Salzer and wayward shooting, Exeter looked a constant threat.
The home side could have had more goals in the first quarter, but found themselves 3-0 ahead anyway after a brilliant individual run and finish from Deigo Larraz, a well worked goal rounded off by Jeannotte, and Larraz’s second after Jeannotte made a long-range burst upfield.
It continued after the break, with captain Harry McKay rattling the post before another effort from a distance found the back of the net to give Exeter a four goal cushion.
Alas, their defensive brilliance was eventually undone, as Oxford finally found the net, and quickly followed it up with a second to half the deficit.
Although another excellent McKay goal – this time from a driving run through the defence – restored Exeter’s three goal lead, the teams would exchange goals again, with Jeannotte getting his second, to leave the game poised at 6-3. Nobody could have expected what followed though. A three goal, four-minute salvo from Oxford - which proved to be their best spell of the match – was followed up with another Oxford strike after and Exeter timeout to head into halftime 6-7 in front.
Discussing the way the game had changed, Jeannotte remarked that “they started setting the pace, when we were setting the pace and playing our game we were fine”. This combined with poor discipline, which had seen Exeter players in the sin-bin for much of the second quarter, had helped give Oxford the crucial edge.
The squad remained calm, and Jeannotte knew if they could regain control of face-off possession – which they did in the third quarter thanks to Nick Woolgar’s strong form – and “play to the crowd”, Exeter would come back into the game.
Though belief didn’t falter on pitch, off pitch it was a different story. Having witnessed the women’s team agonisingly lose against the same opposition, they were desperate to see a win on the bitterly cold day.
But Exeter stuck to the game plan, and began to regain control of possession, something they had lacked in the difficult period before the break. This combined with brutal defensive intensity enabled the home side to get the momentum back and the crowd burst into life.
They were even louder when Oscar Draycott rounded off a brilliant attacking move before Larraz completed yet another superb solo attack with a cool finish – in the blink of an eye, Exeter were back in front. Larraz then turned provider for their ninth, with a fantastic display of speed and agility before feeding Getley whose composed finish gave Exeter breathing space.
And as their opponents had done to them at the end of the second quarter, it was Exeter’s turn to score a fourth unanswered goal, this time at the end of the third quarter, with Jeannotte completing his hat-trick.
The final quarter would be defined by strong defence and goalkeeping, but that was not to say the game was in any way petering out. Sandwiched in between two Oxford goals, Jeannotte netted his fourth, though had the Blues struck next, it would have made for a tense finish.
But Exeter, as they had done during the third quarter, were controlling things and although defence was still vital, Alex Powell’s rare charge from defence showed they still had attacking ambition.
And it was the men in green who got the last laugh, with skipper McKay becoming the third player to complete a hat-trick, and they would hold on for a 12-9 win that assures them a Championship quarter-final spot, and only trail Oxford on goal difference.
Written by Nick Powell, Sport Team, Exeposé