Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Dogs down Demons in thriller
Written by Michael Shillito.
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Pennant Hills Demons – Henson Park on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
As we move deeper into June, the ladder looks to be taking shape. It’s still mathematically possible for everyone to make the finals, but realistically we’re down to six teams who are finals chances. One of them will miss out. And that battle for finals positions is very tight, with each win against a fellow finals contender extremely valuable.
And although it didn’t boost their position on the ladder, the finals aspirations of UNSW Eastern Suburbs received a massive lift on Saturday afternoon at Henson Park when they claimed the scalp of second-placed Pennant Hills.
Rain during the week had softened the ground, but Saturday was sunny with no significant wind influence. Much of the scoring was at one end, but that was more due to the fluctuating fortunes of the day and momentum shifts than any intervention by the elements.
UNSW Eastern Suburbs were looking good early, showing the resolve they needed to take the fight up to the defending champions. Pennant Hills had their opportunities, but found themselves under pressure from an enthusiastic UNSW Eastern Suburbs side that sensed a chance to get a strong start on the board. And with three goals to two in the first term, the Bulldogs held a seven-point advantage at quarter time.
After the break, it was the Pennant Hills Demons turn to lift, and exert themselves into the contest. The Bulldogs were forced onto the defensive, and incursions into their forward 50 were rare in the second term. Pennant Hills didn’t have everything their own way in the midfield, but were sending the ball forward more regularly and their forwards were getting more chances to create something on the scoreboard. Three unanswered goals would go the Pennant Hills Demons way in the second term, as they turned their quarter time deficit into a 10-point lead at the long break.
But having got on top in the second term, Pennant Hills went back into their shell in the third, and the spark they had in the second term was barely evident in the third. Meanwhile UNSW Eastern Suburbs lifted, as whatever was said behind closed doors in the rooms at half time had the desired effect. The Bulldogs were backing themselves to kick goals from a fair way out, and it didn’t always come off as the goal umpire raised a single flag on several occasions. But often enough the confidence was rewarded as four goals to one was registered and UNSW Eastern Suburbs were clear by 12 points at the last change.
But there were plenty more twists in this tale. Often when a game is tight we see teams go on the defensive and seek to lock the other out. But this time the final quarter produced the most enterprising footy for the day, a shootout in which the possibility of further scoring kept the faithful from both teams on the edge of their seats until the final seconds. Pennant Hills were coming hard, looking to snatch the result from the fire as they have so often before. But UNSW Eastern Suburbs had the answers to any challenge that would come their way. It was four goals to three in favour of the Demons in the final term, but the Bulldogs were clinging tight to a five-point margin in their favour when the final siren finally sounded.
Matt Rawlinson, Justin Cann and Jack Blair were magnificent for UNSW Eastern Suburbs, but all of them applied themselves well to the contest and played their role when it was needed. The Bulldogs remain in fourth place, behind Manly Warringah on percentage. But they go a game clear of fifth, and the other teams around them on the ladder still have a game against Pennant Hills to come. More important is the psychological boost that will come their way after knocking off one of the competition’s powerhouse teams.
It was a shock loss for the Pennant Hills Demons. Aaron Crisfield, Tom Angel and Michael Carroll were best for Pennant Hills, but in the end they fell agonisingly short. They remain in second place, still a game clear of the challenging pack of teams, but have fallen two games behind North Shore in the race for the minor premiership.
UNSW EASTERN SUBURBS BULLDOGS – 3.3 3.6 7.13 10.15 (75)
PENNANT HILLS DEMONS – 2.2 5.6 6.7 10.10 (70)
UNSW EASTERN SUBURBS BULLDOGS GOALS – J. Pawle 3, D. Pfeiffer 2, L. Irvine, M. Rawlinson, D. Cordell, M. Thompson, T. Redden
PENNANT HILLS DEMONS GOALS – J. Adams 2, M. Carey 2, N. Hey 2, A. Goodall, T. Edmonds, T. Abbott, A. Crisfield
UNSW EASTERN SUBURBS BULLDOGS BEST – M. Rawlinson, J. Cann, J. Blair, T. Redden, J. Pawle, L. Irvine
PENNANT HILLS DEMONS BEST – A. Crisfield, T. Angel, M. Carroll, J. Hare, S. Wray, A. Goodall