Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Bombers take off in final quarter
Written by Michael Shillito
East Coast Eagles vs. North Shore Bombers – Kanebridge Oval on Saturday 3rd August
As the finals draw closer, every game between two teams in the top five is critical. Not only can they sort out ladder positions, but there’s also the key psychological edge that can be provide an advantage if the two teams meet again during the finals. So when East Coast Eagles hosted North Shore at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday afternoon, there was plenty at stake.
The sun was shining and Kanebridge Oval was looking good. A North Shore win would mathematically guarantee the Bombers the double-chance in the finals. The Eagles would need a win to keep their slimmest of mathematical double-chance hopes alive. More importantly, a win would end the minute possibility of missing out on finals altogether.
Last time these two teams met at Kanebridge was last year in the final round. In this game the Bombers would fall over the line by a kick and give the Eagles a nervous wait to find out if they would make the finals. This time around, the Eagles were backing themselves to go better and cause the upset win.
In the early exchanges, the message was sent loud and clear that the Bombers had a fight on their hand. Backing themselves in the tight contests and applying plenty of pressure, the Eagles looked the stronger side early on and found the reward for effort as they landed three goals to two and led by seven points at quarter time.
The Eagles had started strongly, but the Bombers regrouped in the second quarter and tightened the game up, starving the home side of opportunities. It wasn’t always pretty to watch, but the miserly North Shore defence effectively repelled the ball away from the danger zone time and again. It was a tightly-contested arm-wrestle, but as the quarter drew on the Bombers took the upper hand and snatched the lead late in the quarter. The Bombers landed the only two goals to be scored during the quarter, turning the quarter time deficit into a narrow six-point lead at the long break.
It was tight, and the nerves were building. The Eagles were showing plenty of desperation, and keeping up with their highly-fancied rivals. Despite the Eagles efforts they were unable to regain the lead, as the Bombers had the answer to any challenge East Coast would throw their way. It was a quarter of fluctuating fortunes, the ball travelling from end to end. Neither team could achieve a decisive break, but the Bombers had the edge. Three goals to two saw the Bombers extend the lead to 13 points at the last change. The job wasn’t done yet, but the Bombers were well placed.
It wasn’t a big lead, but the Eagles were unable to make a dent in it during the last quarter. Two goals would go the Eagles’ way, but it wasn’t enough to threaten the lead. A late surge from the Bombers saw them finish with four goals for the quarter, enough to stretch the final margin out to 26 points after a contest that for much of the day looked a lot closer.
On a day when goals were at a premium, Matt Buskariol stood up with four major scores. Around the ground, Jack Millar, James Cubis and Kyle Devlin were ball magnets all day; making key contributions to the Bomber cause.
Stuart Turner, Reuben Haupt and Andrew Browning were standout contributors for the Eagles. The home side had put up a strong fight, but in the end it wasn’t enough to get them over the line.
Other results in Round 16 saw UNSW Eastern Suburbs maintain top spot and boost their percentage to over 200 as they held UTS AFC Bats to a single goal and took out a 159-point win at Waverley Oval. Sydney Uni remain in second after a 31-point win over St George at Olds Park. Camden broke through for their first home win of the year as they hung on for a three-point win over Manly at Fairfax Reserve.
The upset of the round saw Inner West Magpies complete their second win over Pennant Hills this season, with a 45-point win at Mike Kenny Oval.
UNSW-ES have only dropped one game this year. They have a test next week, taking on Sydney Uni at Sydney Uni No 1 Oval and then have Camden at Henson Park in the last round. A win next week will wrap up the minor premiership, but if the Students can get up, only percentage will separate them which will be a tight battle.
Sydney Uni are a game behind the Bulldogs, but have the advantage of being at home in their last two games which are against UNSW-ES and Pennant Hills. Next week will go a long way towards determining the minor premiership.
Third-placed North Shore are at home against Camden and UTS in the last two rounds and will be favourites to win both comfortably. With a four-game break over Pennant Hills, their double-chance spot is guaranteed. North Shore fans can book Qualifying Final tickets as they can’t finish higher than second or lower than third.
Pennant Hills are in fourth place, but with only two games to go they can’t make the double-chance. Next week they are at home against likely Elimination Final opponents East Coast, before a tough last-round clash away to Sydney Uni.
East Coast are in fifth place, two games plus 15 percent clear of Inner West. It should be enough. But if they drop next week’s game against Pennant Hills, the final round clash against Inner West at Kanebridge could suddenly take on more importance. If that is the case the Magpies would need to win by a large margin to claim fifth.
It’s a long shot for the Magpies, but not impossible. They have Manly at Picken Oval next week and need to win by a big margin and hope the Eagles fall over. If that happens, they face the Eagles at Kanebridge in the last round. Alternatively, it’s still mathematically possible if the Magpies win their last two and Pennant Hills drop their last two. For the Magpies to claim fifth in this scenario they would need to make up 29 percent, which looks too much.
Two rounds to go. Next week could wrap up our finals positions, or throw everything we’d assumed for months into doubt.
North Shore Bombers – 2.1 | 4.5 | 7.7 | 11.9 (75)
East Coast Eagles – 3.2 | 3.5 | 5.6 | 7.7 (49)
North Shore Goals – M Buskariol 4, S Lee-Steere 2, Z Fyffe, W Taylor, M Barritt, D Roberts, T Meacham
East Coast Goals – A Ellis 3, R Haupt, J Large, S Turner
North Shore Best – J Millar, J Cubis, K Devlin, J McKenzie, C Parsons, J Campbell
East Coast Best – S Turner, R Haupt, A Browning, A Rickett, L Waters, B Jones