Round 14 Review – more questions than answers
Article by Michael Shillito
Everything right is wrong again. Just when we thought we had the form for this 2017 season worked out, a round of upsets poses more questions than it answers. Losses for the top two shows they are beatable, but also raises the bar for qualifying for the top five.
Pennant Hills Demons vs. UNSW Eastern Suburbs
Just two weeks ago, Pennant Hills’ season looked to be unravelling. They had not won a game for nearly two months, but a win last week against Manly-Warringah broke the drought. The Demons were outsiders despite having the home ground advantage when they hosted UNSW Eastern Subrubs at Mike Kenny Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs went into the game on the back of a seven-game winning streak. Although, early on they found themselves up against it as the Demons got the early jump.
The Demons were determined to make their mark and claim one of the competition’s prize scalps. The scoreboard reflected the tale, as the Demons scored five goals to two in the opening term to lead by 21 points at the first change.
The Bulldogs were under pressure, and for the first time in many weeks, were looking vulnerable. The Bulldogs were uncharacteristically flat, struggling to exert any influence in the contest while the Demons were looking sharp and focused.
The quarter would yield four goals to one in favour of the Demons, and when the two sides returned to their rooms at half time, the Demons went in with an advantage of 36 points.
There was no time to lose if the Bulldogs were to entertain any hopes of getting back into the contest. However, in the third term, they were unable to make any inroads.
The Demons’ backline defence was extremely strong, which saw the Bulldogs unable to score a goal but instead, the Demons managed three to extend the margin to 57 points at three quarter time.
It was clear that the Demons had the game won, with the final quarter seeing each side score three goals, with the final winning margin for Pennant Hills being 59 points.
Theo Moraitis took the honours on the forward line to finish with five goals, while the performance of Tom Angel, Ranga Ediriwickrama and Aaron Crisfield were pivotal to the Demons’ success.
The Demons remain in sixth place. With Western Suburbs, Sydney University and UTS to come in their last three games, the Demons are a likely contender in the finals.
The Bulldogs remain second on the ladder, a game behind Sydney University, but only half a game ahead of third-placed North Shore. UTS, St George and North Shore are their opponents for the last three rounds.
Sydney University vs. East Coast Eagles
Ladder leaders Sydney University took on fifth-placed East Coast Eagles in a blue and gold derby on Saturday afternoon at Henson Park.
The first quarter would be a high-scoring shootout, as both sides embraced the challenge and threw caution to the wind through the early exchanges.
It was a quarter of footy in which the lead would change hands several times, but the Eagles had the last shout with five goals to four, leading by five points at quarter time.
Little separated the two sides in the first quarter, although the Eagles took the upper hand in the second. Stepping up the pace in the midfield and hardening up in defence, the pendulum swung sharply their way.
The Eagles dominated possession and the inside 50s count, kicking all five goals for the quarter to extend their lead to 32 points at half time.
The Students put in great effort to lift their game, but some missed shots and desperation-inspired turnovers would cost them dearly against the Eagles as they trailed by 24 points at three quarter time.
The Eagles were looking comfortable, but Sydney University were still firing. After a quick run of goals, suddenly the game was back in the balance.
The Students ran through five goals to one in the final quarter, although time was running out. The Eagles defended grimly throughout the last few nervous minutes but hung on to take the game by a point.
It was a thrilling finish, with Monty Krochmal, Harry Morrison and Jonathan Williams playing important roles for the Students.
The Eagles hold on to fifth spot, half a game ahead of Pennant Hills. They are up against Manly-Warringah next week, followed by St George in the last round.
North Shore vs. St George
For the past several weeks, North Shore and St George had been locked in a tight battle for third spot and the double-chance in the finals. Both had won their last four matches going into their clash at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday afternoon.
North Shore struck an important blow and put themselves in an advantageous position when they comfortably accounted for the Dragons by 41 points.
In the first quarter, the Bombers showed a narrow edge with three goals to one, and lead by 12 points at quarter time.
After such a tight opening, the game became a contest in the second quarter where the North Shore were looking like the stronger side. A quarter of five goals to two extended the North Shore lead to 32 points, and they were in a comfortable position.
Showing a good vibe in the third quarter, the Bombers were looking in control of their game as they executed a well-drilled plan. It was a quarter that would yield five goals to three for the Bombers, extending the lead to 45 points at the last change.
The game was safely won for North Shore but there were plenty of entertaining moments throughout a high-scoring final quarter in which both sides played some enterprising football. The Dragons scored six goals to four to win the final quarter, but the result was a 41-point win for the Bombers.
Harry Carr put the Bombers on the road to victory to finish with four goals, while Dylan Smith, Shaun Crane and Jono Marsh were also standouts. The win puts them a game and a half ahead of St George in third place, a great position before their games against the Wests and UNSW Eastern Suburbs in the last two rounds.
Jake Brown, Connor Flanagan and Baily McParland were St George’s best. They are not out of the running for the double-chance, but will be a challenging run home for the Dragons with games against Sydney University, UNSW Eastern Subrubs and East Coast to come.
UTS Bats vs. Western Suburbs
It was a visit to the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ for UTS and Western Suburbs when the two sides clashed at Waverley Oval on Saturday afternoon, with both sides having won three games for the season.
The Magpies won the first quarter by three goals to two, leading by three points at the first change. There was not much separating the two teams and they were both keen on scoring the valuable premiership points.
The Bats took control of the game in the second quarter, establishing a lead which the Magpies would be unable to run down. It was a quarter in which the scoreboard would be constantly ticking over.
The Magpies were only able to manage two goals and the UTS lead was out to 28 points at the long break. However, the Magpies had an effective double-pronged forward line and had to seek them out at every opportunity.
The third term was a marathon quarter of footy, a high-scoring shootout in which the goals were flowing. The Bats were able to score six goals to five, taking a 36-point lead into three quarter time.
It was another high-scoring last quarter of football, with the Bats adding seven goals to five in the final term, and when the final siren eventually sounded the final margin was 50 points in favour of UTS.
Tom Larby scored four goals for the Bats to be their best, while Rawson Kirkhope and Louis O’Keefe also featured prominently for the Bats.
Wins have been hard to come by for UTS this season, but this one keeps them in the finals race. The Bats have games against UNSW Eastern Suburbs, Manly and Pennant Hills to come.
The Magpies had two effective forwards with Ben Zoppo finishing with seven goals and Nick Salter six. Ben Zoppo, Callum McEvoy-Gray and Reuben Haupt also battled tirelessly for the Magpies all afternoon.
While Manly-Warringah and Western Suburbs have not made the finals, North Shore have guaranteed their spot in the 2017 finals.
Pennant Hills 5.3 9.5 12.9 15.12 (102)
Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs 2.0 3.5 3.6 6.7 (43)
Goals : Pennant Hills – T Moraitis 5, C Luscombe 2, T Angel 2, J Stern 2, N Hey 2, A Crisfield, M Carey. UNSW-ES – J Cann 2, S Pollock, R Farrelly, J Irvine, J Hardman.
Best : Pennant Hills – T Angel, R Ediriwickrama, A Crisfield, T Moraitis, J Boag, R Lepore. UNSW-ES – T Heath, J McLean, A Foote, T Dickson, M Thompson, H Annear.
At Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 29th July 2017.
East Coast Eagles 5.2 10.3 13.5 14.8 (92)
Sydney University 4.3 4.7 8.11 13.13 (91)
Goals : East Coast – Not available. Sydney Uni – J Prato 2, H Morrison 2, W Stratford 2, J Stapleton, J Williams, M Vicic, B Fitzpatrick, S Krochmal, M Krochmal, O Osborne.
Best : East Coast – Not available. Sydney Uni – M Krochmal, H Morrison, J Williams, W Stratford, J Stapleton, N Foster.
At Henson Park, Saturday 29th July 2017.
North Shore 3.4 8.7 13.12 17.20 (122)
St George 1.4 3.5 6.9 12.9 (81)
Goals : North Shore – H Carr 4, A McConnell 3, S Barkley 2, S Carruthers 2, N Campbell, K Latham, Z Fyffe, W Bradley, J Marsh, L Smailes. St George – D Donohue 2, B Jones 2, K Anu, J Brown, D Lycakis, L Maze, B McParland, N Ryan, N Shaw, A Wynn.
Best : North Shore – D Smith, S Crane, J Marsh, S Barkley, H Carr, E Strudwick. St George – J Brown, C Flanagan, B McParland, P Tegg, B Jones, A Wynn.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 29th July 2017.
University of Technology 2.6 8.16 14.20 21.23 (149)
Western Suburbs 3.3 5.6 10.8 15.9 (99)
Goals : UTS – T Larby 4, L Maslin 3, E Thwaites 3, R Bates 3, L O’Keefe 3, R Kirkhope 2, J Law, P Brennan, T Mead. Wests – B Zoppo 7, N Salter 6, C Ford, T Woods.
Best : UTS – T Larby, R Kirkhope, L O’Keefe, J Macklin, T Mead, J Law. Wests – B Zoppo, C McEvoy-Gray, R Haupt, C Ford, D O’Connell, S Stephens.
At Waverley Oval, Saturday 29th July 2017.