BLK AFL Sydney Round 8 Review

Article by Michael Shillito, Photo by Leigh Gazzard

Premier Division returned on Saturday after a week off. A chance to get over some niggles and regroup. And Round 8 would throw up some interesting results, posing more questions than answers as all the away teams won.
All games were played on Saturday afternoon. After an exceptionally mild autumn, the cold winter temperatures had finally hit; and a morning shower softened the grounds up. Better conditions than the rock-hard dustbowls of recent weeks, but the grounds still in reasonable shape.

Pennant Hills hosted UTS at Mike Kenny Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Bats were promoted to Premier Division in 2011 and have never made the finals; but their odds of qualifying for this year’s playoffs shortened dramatically when they knocked off the reigning premiers by 44 points.
The game started with both sides feeling each other out, the Demons being a very skilful side but the Bats having the big bodies and the edge in the physical side of the game. There wasn’t much separating the two sides in general play; but the Bats made better use of their opportunities to score four goals to two for the quarter and taking an 11-point lead to quarter time.
It was a reasonable lead, but it was in the second term that UTS got on top and set up a match-winning lead. The forward options began to present themselves, with David Smith and Daniel Hines in particular looking dangerous and out-muscling the Demon defenders. Six goals to two was a reflection of the Bats’ dominance, as the Demons looked out of the contest and the Bats surged to a 35-point half time lead.
The Demons had been badly beaten in the second term, but they attempted a fightback in the third. Throwing caution to the wind and going all-out in attack, at times they would be successful and string a couple of goals together. But for all their efforts, the Bats had the answers and the Demons were unable to make any inroads into the deficit. It was an attacking and high-scoring quarter of footy, entertaining to watch. But for all the Demons’ efforts, the Bats won the quarter with five goals to four; and the margin was stretched to 39 points at three quarter time. 
The game was safely won, and the pressure was off in the last quarter. It wasn’t a term that reached any great heights, but the Bats were enjoying the spoils of victory and claiming one of the competition’s big scalps. With three goals to two in the final term, the final winning margin was out to 44 points. UTS upset Pennant Hills last year, but in the context of this season and the Bats’ move up the ladder, as well as the convincing way they went about their football, this was a far bigger result.
David Smith scored five goals for the Bats in a best-on-ground performance, while Daniel Hines also contributed four goals to the UTS goal; and Tom Larby and Ben Nethersole also made prominent contributions to UTS.
Jesse Hare, Stephen Wray and James Dunn were best for the Demons; but the defending champions find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. Three wins, four losses and out of the top five. They’re still in finals contention, we’re not even half way through the season yet. But they’ll need to lift dramatically to defend their premiership title.

North Shore had lifted considerably this season to be in the top five after missing the finals in the last two seasons, while Sydney Uni had been without a win since the opening round after playing finals for the last two years. But the order of the last couple of years was restored as the Students burst out of the blocks at Mortgage Choice Oval to record their second win of the year.
The Students, with a strong Premier Division team this week and stung by their early-season results, arrived at Gore Hill determined to get their season back on track and wasted no time in showing that they had come to play. The first goal was on the board within a few seconds, the second barely a minute later; and the Students would never be headed. And when the Students got the ball forward over the remainder of the quarter, they couldn’t miss. The Bombers showed some recovery from the early onslaught later in the quarter, and both sides had the same number of scoring shots; but the accuracy of the Students gave them a 15-point advantage at the first change. 
The Bombers had been forced into playing catch-up footy, and the run of play wasn’t going their way. Too many turnovers and not enough contested possessions was seeing them struggling, while the Students continued to surge with another strong second quarter. The scoreboard continued to reflect Sydney Uni’s superior play around the ground, as they landed four goals to two in the second quarter to extend the lead to 28 points at half time.
The third quarter was grinding football, as the Bombers tried to get back in the contest but it just wasn’t happening for them. The Students got two goals with minimal resistance, while the Bombers had to scramble for both of theirs. And when they needed to make every post a winner to get the margin back to within striking distance, some missed shots at goal would cost the Bombers dearly. And with the Students 25 points to the good at the last change, the game looked to be out of North Shore’s reach.
There would be no late surge by the Bombers, and as the minutes in the final quarter ticked by with neither side scoring a goal, it was increasingly clear the Students had enough of a buffer to hold North Shore out and the Bombers had too much ground to make up. The Bombers would manage two late goals to cut the final margin to 13 points, but Sydney Uni was too far in front for the Bombers to manage a comeback.
Spencer Krochmal, Allister Clarke and Monty Krochmal were pivotal to the Students’ win, playing key roles especially during the first quarter when they built what would be a match-winning lead. There’s still a long way for the Students to go to get back into finals contention, and they remain two games out of the five. But maybe this win could be the kick-start they need to get a winning run going.
North Shore were well served by the efforts of Darcy Baron-Hay, Tim Weston and Selby Lee-Steere. But the Bombers had a disappointing day, well short of the dominant displays they had shown in earlier games this season. They remain in fourth place, but with two losses in a row they’ll be keen to lift themselves back to the early-season form.

Wests were winless going into their match against Manly at Picken Oval. But the Magpies put up a real fight against the Giants, and at times the prospect of a boilover result looked very real.
It was a fiercely physical opening quarter, as both teams put their bodies on the line and easy possessions were hard to come by. The Magpies were keen to deny their highly-fancied rivals any edge, and were showing a grit and determination that hasn’t always been there this year. And the scoreboard would give them due reward, as they scored two goals to one to lead by five points at quarter time.
It was a similar story in the second term. Not always a quarter for the purists or the connoisseurs of attacking footy, but one in which the passion of the Magpies couldn’t be faulted. The Magpie faithful perched in their utes on the outer side, were loving what they were seeing as some physical footy resulted in two goals to one. At half time, the Magpies were 10 points ahead; and hopes of a Fibros v Silvertails type boilover were rising.
The Magpies would score two more goals in the third quarter, increasing their chances of breaking through for the first win of the season. But the Giants lifted as the premiership quarter drew on, and suddenly players that had been held out of the contest for so long began to emerge as genuine challengers for the ball. And eventually the Giants would put some scoreboard pressure to land four goals in the third term, taking the lead shortly before the three quarter time siren to lead by five points at the last change.
The Magpies had put up a real fight, and their effort couldn’t be faulted. But giving up the lead late in the third took the wind out of their sails. And after having fought so hard for three quarters, the Magpies had nothing more to give in the last. Manly had been placed under pressure for so long, but had ridden out the storm and faced clear sailing to the finish line. With four goals to one in the final term, the Giants ended up with a 24-point win. Wests had lost no respect for their determined showing, but Manly had done enough to take the points.
Anthony Robertson stood tall on a day when goals were hard to come by to finish with four goals, and along with Angus Buncle and James Brain was among the Giants’ best. After a slow start to the year, the Giants move into the top five for the first time in 2016 and extend their winning run to four games.
Pat Wilmot, Seamus Pearson and Peter Maxwell were determined warriors for the Magpies. It had been a brave fight by the under-manned Wests side, but they remain winless at the bottom of the ladder and left to lament another potential win that had got away.

With St George having the bye this round, East Coast Eagles had the chance to go to the top of the table when they took on UNSW-ES at the Village Green on Saturday afternoon; and despite a slow start, had little trouble achieving that.
The Bulldogs had broken through for their first win of the season in their last match, and came out with plenty of intent to claim a major scalp. And in the early exchanges they did a good job of keeping the highly-fancied Eagles at bay. The Eagles frustrated themselves with some inaccurate finishing on the forward line, but the Bulldogs were putting on plenty of pressure around the ground and forcing the Eagles into errors. And the Bulldogs made better use of their opportunities on the forward line to kick three goals to one and take a surprise 11-point lead to quarter time.
The quarter time break gave the Eagles a chance to regroup, fine tune their positions and look far stronger in the second half. But it would take some time for the Eagles to wipe off the deficit. At times they were their own worst enemy, as the ball spent long passages of play on their forward line but several kickable shots at goal sailed wide of the big sticks. But eventually the weight of possession would take its toll and the scoreboard pressure was piled on; four goals to one for the quarter turning the deficit into a 12-point half time lead.
The Bulldogs were putting up a fight, but didn’t have the firepower to match it with the star-studded Eagles side. As the premiership quarter drew on, the Eagles extended their lead, sniffing the scent of the ladder leadership and going all-out for it. The Bulldogs had been within striking distance at half time, but the third quarter put the game out of reach, as the Eagles effectively controlled play around the ground and scored four goals to two, stretching the lead out to 24 points at the last change.
The floodgates opened in the final quarter, as the staunch Bulldog resistance from earlier in the match crumbled. The pressure had been released, and on the small ground at the Village Green, long kicks from the centre square can set up attacking raids deep in the forward line. The scoreboard by now was ticking over with regularity, the Eagles scoring seven goals to two in the final term and by the time the final siren sounded, the winning margin was 55 points.
Andrew McConnell looked dangerous on the forward line to finish with five goals; and along with Jack Dimery and Blake Anderson was among the Eagles’ best. It hadn’t been a dominant performance early, but the Eagles lifted their workrate as the match unfolded, finding another gear to step up when they needed to.
For the Bulldogs, Jeremy Daniher, Alex Foote and Fletcher Rowe worked hard all afternoon. But the Bulldogs were unable to capitalise on their strong first quarter. Three games out of the top five, the Bulldogs have no time to waste in getting a winning streak started if they are to play in this year’s finals.

There’s plenty of intrigue in next week’s matches, with several games that could go a long way towards shaping finals destinies. Pennant Hills will be looking to get their premiership defence back on track when they host Sydney Uni at Mike Kenny Oval. At Mortgage Choice Oval, third place will be on the line as North Shore host UTS. 
UNSW-ES and Wests will be desperate for a win when they face off at Kelso Oval. And a Sunday afternoon match at Olds Park between St George and Manly will give the Dragons a chance to regain top spot or Manly will need a win to keep themselves in the top five. East Coast Eagles have the bye.

The full Round review can be found here:


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