Round 10 Review: The agony and the ecstasy

Article by Michael Shillito

The sun shone brightly on Saturday afternoon for another round of footy. We’re into the second half of the season, but the finals race is still wide open.
Sydney University vs North Shore

Sydney University                            4.1,  7.1,  9.3,  12.6  (78)

North Shore Bombers                     1.5,  2.8,  9.12,  10.14  (74)
Sydney Uni remain on top of the ladder. The Students have dominated many of their games this season; but they were given a run for their money by North Shore in a twilight match at Sydney Uni No 1 Oval on Saturday.
The Bombers were competing around the ground during the first quarter, and the Students weren’t having everything their own way in general play. But the Bombers were wasteful in front of goal, while the Students made far better use of their opportunities. Four goals to one in the opening quarter saw the Students leading by 14 points at the first change.
There was nothing in the second quarter that suggested any deviation from the season’s formline, where the Students have been the dominant force. The Bombers were working hard to stay in the contest, but were unable to achieve any form of reward for effort; while the Students were cruising comfortably, making the best use of their opportunities and doing enough to hold North Shore at bay. Three goals to one saw Sydney Uni leading by 23 points at half time, and looked set for a regulation win.
Sydney Uni had their DJ pumping out the music, revving the crowd up every goal. But the volume was raised around the ground during the third term. It was goal for goal for the first 15 minutes. But suddenly, without warning, the momentum shifted. North Shore lifted, loose runners and marking targets began presenting themselves. The Bomber drum was beating, hearts were pounding and the intensity was rising as the Bombers kicked the last five goals of the quarter. No-one saw it coming, but a quarter of seven goals to two saw North Shore turn their deficit into a shock nine-point lead at three quarter time.
After carrying all before them for so many weeks, suddenly the Students were vulnerable. The Bombers had a spring in their step as they emerged from the huddle for the last quarter; while the Students knew they had a fight on their hands. Two quick goals to the Students restored their lead, but it was short-lived as the Bombers regained the advantage.
It was a heart-stopper, and the players were rising to the occasion. Desperate tackles, pack after pack forming around the ground. Easy possessions were non-existent as two determined opponents locked horns and refused to budge. Time was ticking down, the Bombers defending grimly, holding on for dear life. While on the other side of the fence, the crowd were trembling like autumn leaves, desperately urging their heroes for one last determined effort. But with just 20 seconds to go, the Bomber defence could go no further and the Students produced the play that got them to fall over the finish line. Agony for the Bombers, ecstasy for the Students.
The winning margin was four points. Kane Murphy, Zac O’Brien and Michael Fogarty were magnificent all night for the Students, doing what it took to get the team over the line. Sydney Uni remain top of the ladder, but were made to fight for this win. They have a star-studded team; this result showed they are strong but not invincible.
Sam Carruthers, Andrew McConnell and Chris Murphy were best for North Shore. It was a heart-breaking result for the Bombers, who have had a draw and three losses by less than two goals this season; having led late in the last quarter in all of them. They sit in fourth spot, and could have been higher. They are the only team to have beaten Sydney Uni this season; but were so agonisingly short of doing it again.

Manly Warringah vs UNSW ES

UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs           4.5,  5.6,  9.7,  12.13  (85)

Manly Warringah Wolves                       1.2,  5.8,  7.10,  9.11  (65)

UNSW-ES sit in second place, only one game plus plenty of percentage behind Sydney Uni. They’ve opened up a two-game break over third and are looking good for the double-chance; but had to work hard for it against Manly at Weldon Oval on Saturday evening.
There wasn’t much of a wind, but the Bulldogs were kicking with what breeze there was in the first term, and looking comfortable enough. A return of four goals to one, and a 21-point lead at quarter time, and the Bulldogs didn’t look like they were in any trouble against the Wolves. The first quarter hadn’t been anything particularly special, but the Bulldogs were looking good.
But when the teams returned to their positions after the quarter time break, it was as if the teams had swapped guernseys. The Bulldogs suddenly found themselves chasing the contest, while the Wolves were first to the ball when it was loose and under every pack when it wasn’t. The ball found itself camped on the Manly forward line for long periods during the quarter, as the Wolves were having the better of play around the ground. And with four goals to one for the quarter, the Wolves wiped out their deficit and returned to the rooms at half time with a two-point lead.
Manly had a special guest at the game, with celebrity forward Warwick Capper having assistant coached the Div 2 game and would be a speaker at an evening event. While he was signing autographs and posing for selfies, there was a game of footy that was undergoing another twist. The Bulldogs had regrouped during the half-time break, and came full of running for the third quarter. Now it was Manly who were forced into defence as the Bulldogs kept forward presses coming their way. It was a quarter where the Bulldogs were controlling the play, with four goals to two; hitting the front during the quarter and leading by nine points at the last change.
All the scoring had favoured one end all evening; and the Wolves were coming home with it. The Bulldogs were far from secure and knew they would have to hang on with a strong defensive effort in the last term. And they were able to do that, as the Wolves would be unable to create enough chances to bridge the deficit. And then the Bulldogs were able to come up with the goals that would put the issue beyond doubt. Three goals to two for the quarter was enough to stretch the final winning margin to 20 points.
Darcy Cordell, Harry Annear and Jack Hardman were ball magnets for the Bulldogs, playing key roles in getting them on top in what had been a topsy-turvy contest. With seven wins and two losses, the Bulldogs sit comfortably in second place; and with the form and confidence they have, a double-chance in the finals draws closer every week.
Lachlan Kilpatrick, Anthony Robertson and Calum Johnston had provided solid service for the Wolves. But it wasn’t enough for them to take the points; and the Wolves are stuck in eighth spot, a game plus percentage out of the top five and will need to launch a winning streak in the next few weeks to stay in contention.

St George vs UTS Bats

St George Dragons                       0.4,  3.10,  6.11,  10.21  (81)

UTS Bats                                        6.2,  8.4,  9.4,  9.4  (58)

St George moved up to third on the ladder, and held UTS back in last spot, when the Dragons met the Bats at Olds Park on Saturday afternoon. But for much of the afternoon, the Bats looked set to pull off the upset of the season.
When the game got under way, UTS knew they needed to lift their game if they were to pull off the win that would kick-start their faltering season. And in the early exchanges, they left no doubt that they meant business as they dictated terms against the more highly-fancied Dragons. The home side was strangely flat, while the Bats were full of running. And the scoreboard didn’t take long to reflect what was happening on the field, as the Bats stunned the Dragons with six unanswered goals in the first term to take a surprise 35-point lead to the quarter time huddle.
The Dragons deserved a blast after a poor first quarter, and they got one; but it wasn’t going to be easy for them to bridge the gap. Partly because the Bats were confident and still playing well, partly because there was pressure being applied to them; but also because the Dragons for much of the second term were their own worst enemy. Some inaccurate finishing with shots that should have been kicked sailing wide, along with some frustrating turnovers on the forward line. Although the Dragons won the quarter, it was only by three goals to two; and the Bats were still 24 points ahead at the long break.
But as magnificent as the Bats had been in the first half, they faded after half time and made little impact over the remainder of the game; only registering one scoring shot in the second half. That shot was a goal early in the third quarter, at which point in time the Bats were looking poised for an upset win. But they had nothing more to give, and slowly but surely the Dragons ran the lead down. St George players who were barely sighted in the first half began to get more of the ball as the Dragons recorded three goals in the third term to reduce the Bats’ lead to 11 points at the last change.
The Dragons were full of running, while the Bats were visibly tiring and were unable to make any impact in the last quarter. The Dragons were getting virtually exclusive use of the ball in the last quarter; but some wasteful finishing made taking the lead harder than it needed to be. While holding the Bats scoreless, the Dragons contributed 4.10 to the scoreboard in the last quarter; peppering the goals but taking longer to hit the front than they should have. But they got there in the end, taking the match by 23 points.
The Dragons had many players to thank for their comeback win, with Dom Michalak, Tyler Gorman-Brown and Justin Maldigri prominent among them. The win takes the Dragons up to third place, but were far from convincing in this game with a poor first half and making heavy weather of their second half comeback. But they’re in the double-chance position and may well make an impact when the business end of the season comes around.
Jack Macklin, Damon Collina and Scott Jansen gave solid service for the Bats, on a day when a great first half saw them poised for the upset of the season before they were unable to last the distance. The Bats have won two games this season and have now lost six in a row, and are now two games outside the top five; and time is running out for them to get a winning streak going to play a part in this year’s finals.

East Coast vs Western Suburbs

East Coast Eagles                                  3.2,  4.9,  9.16,  15.18  (108)

Western Suburbs Magpies                 7.1,  7.7,  7.11,  11.12  (78)

For East Coast and Wests, last season saw very different results as the Eagles took the premiership and the Magpies the wooden spoon. But their paths converged this year, to the extent that when the two sides faced off at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday afternoon the winner would move into the top five.
Early on, it was the Magpies who were the better side. Hitting the ground running, they controlled the movement of the ball out of the centre and began creating numerous scoring opportunities and converting enough of them to put the Eagles under some genuine scoreboard pressure. It was a long, high-scoring and entertaining opening quarter; but the Magpies were having the better of it with seven goals to three and leading by 23 points at quarter time.
In the second term, the Magpies were looking to increase their lead while the Eagles were attempting to bridge the gap. Both had their chances, but both squandered too many chances to achieve their objective. There was a slight cross-ground breeze, and Kanebridge Oval picks up the wind more than most grounds; but that doesn’t explain the inaccurate returns that both sides put in during the second term. The Eagles scored the only goal of the quarter, their score of 1.7 compared to the six behinds of the Magpies cut the Wests’ lead to 16 points at the long break.
The 2016 order was restored in the third quarter, as the Eagles asserted themselves over the Magpies and wasted little time in eliminating the half time deficit. They still weren’t totally convincing, and were still squandering chances in front of goal; but the run of play around the ground was one-sided as the East Coast Eagles of old returned to action. They would score five unanswered goals in the third term, turning the half-time deficit into a 17-point three quarter time lead; a burst of football in the premiership quarter that served a brief reminder that many of their premiership stars are still there, albeit that they haven’t looked like premiership contenders for much of this year.
In the end, the third quarter was the difference between the two sides. The Magpies had lost the lead and would be unable to get it back in the final term. It was a high-scoring quarter, one that would yield six goals to four in favour of the Eagles, stretching the final margin out to 30 points. But the damage was done during the premiership quarter; and the gallant fight of the Magpies in the first half was undone during those minutes.
Mark Weekes was the star of the show with six goals in a best-on-ground performance; while Stuart Turner and Damon Steer drove the Eagles back to the winning path during their third quarter fightback. The Eagles are now in the top five, despite a season that hasn’t gone their way so far; and can’t be ruled out of premiership calculations when they are in the five.
Reuben Haupt, Pat Wilmot and Brenton Mumme were best for the Magpies. The loss sees them in seventh place, but they’re only a game plus a bit of percentage outside the five; and are still very much finals contenders, especially if they can string some wins together in the next few weeks.


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