Ireland had 5 points to spare over Sweden
Ireland’s final game in the group stages of their European Championship qualifiers seen them come up against Sweden, and it was the Swedes who made it clear early on what they intended on doing. High pressure from the outset seen them try to pin Ireland in their own half but some very slick passing manoeuvres from the Irish got them over the halfway line without fail. Sweden used fast breaks to counter the Irish press, utilising long balls over the top to break Irish lines, a tactic that worked well for the duration of the first half. These tactics told the story of the half as the game ebbed and flowed from one end to the other with neither side pulling out a lead of any more than two points at any stage. Ireland’s defence tightened up as the half wore on, making life much more difficult for the Swedes – the effects of this would become much more apparent in the final quarter. The game as a whole was played at a much greater pace and higher intensity to the earlier game against Norway, with both sides still having something to play for. As the half drew to a close, Ireland held the slenderest of leads, eventually finishing the half 26-25 in front.
A quick regroup at half time and Ireland began the second half with possession of the ball. Ireland started to manage the clock a lot more in the third, methodically working their way up the court and not rushing their tries. Sweden continued their high-tempo game, retaliating quickly to any Irish score. Again, neither side was able to gain a foothold in the match, with the game moving from end-to-end and the teams never separated by more than two points. Sweden managed to level the game with 30 seconds remaining on the clock at the end of the third; the Irish unable to force another try.
Ireland flew out of the blocks in the fourth, forcing two turnovers in quick succession and pulled out a narrow three-point lead. Aggressive defence and fluid passing on offence allowed Ireland to gradually extend their lead as the final quarter wore on. The Swedes seemed to tire, no doubt a result of the intense Irish pressure throughout the game. Ireland’s patience and hard work paid off as the lead stabilised at six points through the final four minutes of the game. Ireland used the clock wisely and didn’t allow Sweden to build up any momentum as they tried to bridge the gap. Ireland finished the game the victors with a final score of 50-45