Lacrosse: England run out of steam: Morley's four goals are not enough to stop Canadians - Steve Bale reports from Bury as the inventors of the game are swept away by an avalanche of goals

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The Independent Online
GIGG LANE is used to fairly modest accomplishments, so when the men's lacrosse World Cup began there last night with 69 goals in two matches the opportunity for an obvious jibe was irresistible, even though England lost.

'Far more goals than you get in football - especially if you watch Bury,' said the man (with evident inside knowledge) from the BBC. Most of them were conceded by the Iroquois in their 26-11 trouncing by Australia.

It seemed an assault on their dignity, but the feeling is vaguely familiar. The English are well used to being also-rans in sports they gave to the world. Lacrosse, on the other hand, has become so all-American that it could sometimes pass for a poor man's gridiron.

Time-outs, referees in black and white stripes, endless substitutions . . . and a game of bewildering attack and counter-attack which deserves to spread its wings (if that's the word) beyond Manchester.

Whatever the native Americans said and did when they came to exhibit their game in England in the 1860s, it certainly worked in this area, to the extent that Manchester, William Hulme's, Cheadle Hulme and Stockport grammar schools all took to it. Hence the Mancunian preponderance in the home squad. 'We are the best England team that's ever been,' Mick Moore, their manager, said. This did not prevent a 19-13 loss to Canada, though as the Canadians are habitually the next-best to the United States in World Cups perhaps it was no mean achievement to go so close.

England are less bothered by individual results than the need to qualify from the round-robin stage for one of the semi-final places.

Had they not made such a wretched start they might even have won. Canada scored after 20 seconds and were three up inside five minutes. England's recovery was so good that they managed to get ahead in the first quarter but Steve Morley's four goals came in vain because it was the Canadians who had the greater staying power.

That is a considerable compliment to them given the exhausting nature of lacrosse. 'The fastest on two feet,' is how aficionados describe it, in reference to the ceaseless movement involved in finding the 6ft x 6ft net, not to mention the running on and off caused by the constant substitutions.

There are 10 of a match squad of 23 in play at any one time, but no restriction on substitutions. How on earth do they know which of them is supposed to go off? On the other hand, being temporarily sidelined is the only way they get a breather, apart from when they are sin-binned for foul play.

The United States, who have won every World Cup bar one, enter the fray tonight when they play Japan, where lacrosse was introduced only six years ago. In America the game has been played approximately 50 times longer. 'There are a great group of teams in here and we respect all our opponents,' Tom Hayes, one of the American officials, said. Even so, he does not expect to lose to any of them, including England.

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