Round 14 Review – tough breaks and ladders
Article by Michael Shillito
Four rounds remain before the Premier Division finals and we have some fascinating battles to be decided. Two teams fighting it out for the minor premiership, another two teams fighting for the double-chance and the battle for fifth spot is far from over.
Sydney University vs. UTS Bats
In a tussle for top spot on the ladder, Sydney University and UNSW Eastern Suburbs went into Round 14 separated only by percentage. However with UNSW-ES having the bye, a win for the Students against the Bats would be enough to propel them back to outright top. The Students convincing 82-point win over UTS in a rare Friday night match, ensured they secured top spot on the ladder.
The Students took some time to hit their straps against a desperate UTS team, but they eventually established themselves on the scoreboard as they kicked the only three goals for the quarter to lead by 18 points at quarter time.
In the second quarter the Students really got going as their kicks began to hit the targets more regularly than in their first term. The Bats kept working, and did manage to string some good passages of play together to kick three goals for the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to keep in touch with the rampant Students, who entered the long break up by 44 points.
It was a dominant display from Sydney Uni and there would be no respite for the Bats in the third term as the Students extended their lead to 69-points.
In the last quarter the Students extended their lead, kicking five goals to three to secure a final winning margin of 82 points in a commanding performance.
Matthew Powys and Allister Clarke led the way up forward for the Students to finish with four goals apiece – Powys joining Josh Cole and David Johnson among Sydney Uni’s best.
The win puts the Students a game plus percentage clear on top of the ladder, although UNSW-ES have a game in hand and the battle for the minor premiership is not over yet.
Daniel Crouch, Jack Macklin and Ben Moyle persisted all night for UTS, but it was another heavy loss for the Bats and their hopes of appearing in this year’s finals are fading fast. The Bats will need to not only win their remaining games but also rely on other results if they want to make finals in 2017.
St. George Dragons vs. Western Suburbs Magpies
In the race for a double-chance in the finals, St George are one of the key players. The Dragons have kept themselves well and truly in the frame for third place and a double-chance in finals with a two goal win over Western Suburbs at Picken Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Dragons were made to fight all day for their win against a determined Magpies side, who kept piling the pressure on all afternoon.
Little separated the two sides in the first quarter – Wests rising to the challenge with physical pressure and numbers around the contest. However, it was the Dragons that took their chances and a three-point lead into the first change.
The arm-wrestle continued in the second quarter, two teams refusing to concede an inch to the other and piling the pressure on. Easy touches were hard to get as a willing contest was unfolding. The Magpies narrowly won the quarter and cut the Dragons lead back to a point at half time.
It was in the third quarter that the Dragons would establish the match-winning break. After a defensively-minded second quarter, the game opened up and the Dragons found their point of difference over the Magpies.
When given room to move the Dragons had better delivery and were able to create the options that mattered. It was a quarter that would yield six goals to three in favour of St George – enough for the Dragons to lead by 18 points at three-quarter time.
The Magpies kept coming during the last quarter but whenever the game looked to be in the balance, the Dragons would conjure up the answering goal to snuff out the challenge. The Magpies fought bravely all day but were unable to make enough of a dent in the deficit, with the Dragons eventual winners by 13 points.
Karl Merson was impressive up forward to finish with four goals for the Dragons, while around the ground David Lycakis, Alex Wynn and Ben Jones were doing plenty of good work with the ball.
The Dragons’ win sees them remain in fourth place, half a game behind North Shore but with a game in hand. The Dragons and Bombers play each other next week in what will be a pivotal game for the double-chance in the finals.
Nick Salter peppered the goals all afternoon for the Magpies to finish with eight, while Brenton Mumme, Reuben Haupt and Jackson Hand were the Magpies’ best. The Magpies are still two games out of the top five, and although it’s still possible for them to make it to the playoffs, time is running out.
East Coast Eagles vs. North Shore
A game with importance for both the battle for third and for fifth was at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday evening as East Coast Eagles played host to North Shore.
A win for the Eagles would have gone close to wrapping up the top five, but it was not to be. It was not a game that reached any great heights, but North Shore did what they had to, taking the game by 28 points.
North Shore have had a good record against East Coast in recent seasons, but the Bombers were given a dose of plenty of pressure in the early exchanges by an East Coast team determined to turn the tide.
The Bombers were forced into turnovers and errors as the Eagles relished the challenge and took the fight up to their rivals. The scoreboard would reward them for their efforts, as the home side kicked three goals to two in the first quarter to lead by four points at quarter time.
But the Eagles were unable to capitalise on their early efforts during the second term. The North Shore defence tightened, and the Eagles were kept scoreless for the second quarter.
At the other end, the Bombers were accumulating the inside 50s, but their inaccurate finishing would prevent them from getting the goals that the run of play should have resulted in.
The Bombers would kick a wayward seven behinds for the second term, frustrating themselves with some missed opportunities but getting enough chances to take a 22-point lead into half time.
It was a lead that the Eagles never really looked like hauling in during the second half. Two goals within a minute at one stage in the third quarter briefly stoked their interest, but for much of the quarter the Eagles were second to the ball. Three goals to two in favour of the Bombers in the third term extended the lead to 31 points at three quarter time.
The Bombers had been the better side around the ground, but despite having nearly triple the number of scoring shots, their wayward finishing meant the scoreboard did not do them justice. That would not change in the last quarter, a term of football that had the look of going through the motions as there was little to inspire in the on-field display.
The Eagles would win the final quarter by two goals to one to reduce the final margin to 28 points, but it was North Shore’s evening.
Dylan Smith, James Cubis and Jack Campbell were best for the Bombers, as they did not have one of their best games, but still did enough to take the premiership points.
With the win, North Shore stays half a game ahead of St George in third place. The win also mathematically guarantees that North Shore will be playing finals in 2017.
Despite the loss, the Eagles were well served by the efforts of Ryan Fitton, Eugene Kruger and Cameron Arndt.
If the Eagles had won this game, it would have made life difficult for the teams outside the top five to chase their way in, but it was not to be. The Eagles remain in fifth place, and Pennant Hills are now only half a game out, and have a game in hand.
Manly-Warringah Wolves vs. Pennant Hills
East Coast’s loss gave the winner of the game at Weldon Oval an opportunity to put the Eagles’ finals berth under pressure, as Manly took on Pennant Hills.
It was the Demons who would get the job done, moving just half a game behind the Eagles and remaining very much in the finals race.
Though it was not looking that way early. The Wolves burst out of the blocks and hit the ground running with relentless pressing into their forward line.
A quarter of four goals to two, saw the Wolves leading by 17 points at quarter time, and it could so easily have been a bigger lead.
The Wolves were playing with confidence and flair in the first quarter, and the Demons knew they would have to lift their work rate around the ground to stop the Manly momentum. They managed to do that in the second quarter, but pegging back the deficit was not going to be easy.
The Wolves still had a spring in their step and would score three goals for the quarter, but the Demons stopped the flow and fought back to land three themselves to reduce the Manly lead to 14 points at the long break.
When the teams emerged for the third quarter, the shape of the game changed. Whatever happened in the Pennant Hills rooms during the break had the desired effect, as they came out full of running.
Now it was the Demons who were first to the ball every time, while the Wolves – fielding a young team with many of their experienced names out – looked to have run out of legs.
The goals quickly flowed as the Demons time and again pumped the ball into their forward-50 and hit their targets with regularity. It took just a few minutes to turn the deficit into a lead, and the scoring kept going.
Nine goals to one in favour of the Demons reflected the play around the ground in a lopsided third quarter, and the Demons led by 36 points at the last change.
It had been a devastating burst of footy in the third term, and the Demons had put on a premiership quarter that had ensured the four points were going their way.
The last quarter was a high-scoring shootout, which the Demons won by five goals to four. The Wolves never gave up and kept fighting but they were never going to overcome the third quarter burst.
The final winning margin for the Demons was 47 points. When goals were needed for the Demons, Nick Hey spoke out and got it done with a return of five goals.
Around the ground, Luke Skrivanic, Jesse Hare and Cooper Lee were outstanding and picked up plenty of the ball.
It was a strong comeback win for the Demons, one that puts them just half a game behind the Eagles and with a game in hand. It was a result that gives them a strong chance of qualifying for this year’s finals, although they still have some tough games coming up.
Lachlan Kilpatrick, Jarrod Osborne and Hayden Washington worked hard all day for Manly. After starting so well, it was disappointing for the Wolves that they faded so badly in the third quarter.
Two games behind fifth spot and a poor percentage, their finals aspirations are in deep trouble. With the bye next week, they risk finding themselves out of the running before they get a chance to fire another shot.
Sydney University 3.2 10.5 15.8 20.11 (131)
University of Technology 0.2 3.3 4.5 7.7 (49)
Goals : Sydney Uni – M Powys 4, A Clarke 4, J Cole 3, W Stratford 3, D Johnson 3, M Vicic, J Irving, S Ryan. UTS – P Brennan, D Crouch, J Law, B Hunt, L O’Keefe, T Mead, R Bates.
Best : Sydney Uni – J Cole, D Johnson, M Powys, S Krochmal, A Clarke, R Bottin-Noonan. UTS – D Crouch, J Macklin, B Moyle, L O’Keefe, H Callahan, S Jansen.
At Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Friday 21st July 2017.
St George 4.2 6.7 12.8 15.10 (100)
Western Suburbs 3.5 6.6 9.8 13.9 (87)
Goals : St George – K Merson 4, N Ryan 3, D Lycakis 2, D Michalak, C Flanagan, A Wynn, D Soffe, P Tegg, B Jones. Wests – N Salter 8, B Mumme, L Davis, R Haupt, B Zoppo, J Newbury.
Best : St George – D Lycakis, A Wynn, B Jones, B Willems, E Shaw, C Flanagan. Wests – B Mumme, R Haupt, J Hand, C Gordon, J Robinson, D O’Connell.
At Picken Oval, Saturday 22nd July 2017.
North Shore 2.4 5.11 8.14 9.19 (73)
East Coast Eagles 3.1 3.1 5.1 7.3 (45)
Goals : North Shore – H Carr 3, A McConnell 2, H McDonald, N Campbell, L Smailes, Z Fyffe. East Coast – M Weekes 2, S Pierce, M Eastman, A Drinkwater, R Fitton, D Spiteri.
Best : North Shore – D Smith, J Cubis, J Campbell, M Manteit, D Fitzgerald, K Devlin. East Coast – R Fitton, E Kruger, C Arndt, Z Johns, S O’Connor, A Browning.
At Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 22nd July 2017.
Pennant Hills 2.2 5.6 14.10 19.17 (131)
Manly-Warringah 4.7 7.8 8.10 12.12 (84)
Goals : Pennant Hills – N Hey 5, T Moraitis 3, M Carey 3, R Ediriwickrama 2, H Angel 2, M Thomas, T Angel, L Skrivanic, C Luscombe. Manly – L Behagg 2, B Palmer 2, C Gallo, D Meadows, E Burke, J Parker, H Washington, E Kaporis, R Wearne, M Rogers.
Best : Pennant Hills – L Skrivanic, J Hare, C Lee, N Hey, D Preen, R Ediriwickrama. Manly – L Kilpatrick, J Osborne, H Washington, L Behagg, M Rogers, E Burke.
At Weldon Oval, Saturday 22nd July 2017.