Admirable in defeat — again. With odds stacked against both sides and with no chance given by pundits, Oceanic squads Grayhound and Rooster exceeded expectations at ESL Pro League Season 17 in Malta this past week.
In a group filled with squads fielding substitutes, both Grayhound and Rooster were afforded multiple chances to progress through the tournament.
Ahead of EPL, Grayhound and Rivalry announced a partnership extension for 2023; but between a poor IEM Katowice performance, a move out of the team house and the departure of coach David “Kingfisher” Kingsford, pundits needed convincing they were still a force.
They didn’t see that on day one, that’s for sure.
Vitality rocked the ‘Hounds 2-0 (16-4, 16-5), with very little to take away for GH as they began what looked like another spiral out of an international event.
But the team rebounded against 00 Nation, pushing the Brazilians to the limit on Mirage, then taking Ancient and Inferno behind a coming-of-age performance from Declan “Vexite” Portelli (73-59, 1.31 rating).
Against Ninjas in Pyjamas, things looked dire for the ‘Hounds after a 2-16 drubbing on their own pick of Ancient.
But in what would be an iconic series win, GH stole away Vertigo and held on in Mirage to stun the Ninjas and book a qualification date with paiN.
Grayhound would come within one map of qualifying for playoffs in the end.
Taking Inferno 16-7, GH came up short on Nuke and Anubis — despite a mega comeback attempt on the latter — meaning a rematch with 00 Nation in the last chance qualifier.
It wouldn’t be in the end for the ‘Hounds, however.
After eliminating Rooster a day earlier, 00 Nation’s hit on OCE CS continued into Sunday’s final best-of-three.
Stealing away Inferno after GH held three map points, Joshua “INS” Potter (23-12, 1.65 rating) stepped up on Ancient to level the series — but the Doggies were gassed.
00 Nation would take the final qualification spot with a 16-9 win on Mirage.
Rooster impress in first international outing
The event page for ESL Pro League will read Rooster as one of the first eliminated, and while that may be true, it certainly doesn’t tell the full story of the Chooks’ Malta experience.
The squad spent the better part of a month in Europe preparing for their international debut and the experience gained from the bootcamp certainly showed in their run through Group C.
Outside of Tyson “asap” Paterson (28-33, 0.95 rating), Rooster struggled on day one in their opening series against group finalists FaZe Clan.
Day two, and this time it was Akram “ADK” Smida (41-32, 1.29 rating) this time who ascended against paiN.
The 22-year-old was as clutch as they come on Anubis, with three rounds attributed single-handedly to his handiwork — including two back-to-back 1v3 clutches.
He remained warm on Nuke, but once again the squad could not keep up with him, nor with paiN’s Romeu “Zevy” Rocco (48-26, 1.62 rating).
The 2-0 (16-11, 16-4) loss meant a meeting with a second Brazilian squad in 00Nation for elimination — and what came next shocked the EPL stream viewership to it’s core.
A 12 T round massacre on Anubis from Rooster, led by asap (26-6, 2.28 rating), was very quickly closed out without loss on CT.
Then, almost as quick as Anubis was finished, Rooster put another 12 up on Inferno — with all five players contributing equally.
At 14-7, the series seemed all but over.
But 00Nation clawed back, and despite numerous rounds coming down to 1v1 clutches, the Oceanic squad just could not convert.
00Nation would complete a total comeback, finishing nine straight to win Inferno in regulation.
An error from the map veto would come back to haunt Rooster; the squad failed to submit their second ban in time, leaving Mirage — one of 00Nation’s stronger maps, and one that Rooster have barely touched — available for the decider.
00Nation punished the mistake, and while Rooster fought to the bitter end — even building a comeback of their own — they fell short of a historic series victory, exiting Malta 16-12.
While Rooster had played minimal OCE CS this year, many still had them ranked second to GH in the region. Their performance in Malta cemented that, and they’ll return home to Australia to contest the home season.
For Grayhound; they too return home, but will depart again in three weeks for Mongolia in their attempt to qualify for the BLAST Paris Major.