Jack Frost turned up to Boss James to accompany the remains of our U12 squad. There was something special about listening to the crunch of footy boots breaking the frozen blades of grass, as the boys went through their warmup. With a new look team, the players had their game face on and there was a buoyant atmosphere generating real energy in the room. Captain Jake Taranto elected to kick to the Roberts end of the ground, but on a still morning there was not expected to be a favoured end.
The footy was hotly contested as the game commenced, with East Sandy gaining the early ascendancy with the game being played in their half of the ground. We had our deep defending playing to instruction led by the backline general in Josh B along with Will S wearing his opponent like a glove, and first gamer in Div 1 Christian B protecting the danger zone and killing the ball over the boundary line. Eventually a goal was conceded but the early signs remained positive with Brodie busy winning both loose and contested footy, Josh E selling the candy taking on much bigger opponents creating some link play as the rovers brought the ball in our forward half where the latter part of the quarter was played. However, the dreaded last minute of the quarter saw the ball released from our forward half too easily, where ES went coast to coast where the kick over the back led to a late goal that had the coaches breathing fire at quarter time.
The response in the second quarter was emphatic, as suddenly the team structure held firm led by the HB brick wall of Jake T and Jensen, both of whose rebound play set up several attacks. After missing an early opportunity following a strong mark in the goal square, Marco got on the end of spilt ball out the back and registered his teams first goal. From the next centre clearance Kyle booted the ball long where Ben S gathered, drew his opponent and fed the handball to Oli H who charged towards goal, and sent a drop punt goal ward in what would have brought down the clubrooms, only for the kick to fade to the wrong side of the post. The Rovers continued to look threatening up forward with Maso launching himself at the pack hard, landing on his feet and inspiring his team mates in what look like it could have been goal of the year. A reverse bounce in the goal square brought it back into play where Oli was opportunist and redeemed his earlier missed opportunity. Having brought back the scores to level, the Rovers had some serious momentum going into half time.
Unfortunately the third quarter started like the first, and we were on the back foot immediately and whilst we had Louis taking marks and Lachie impacting the contests in defence, ES posted 2 consecutive early goals. Through the energetic Kai we were able to wrestle back the momentum, and he got the next clearance, from which we were able to lock the ball in our forward half. After a series of stoppages, Archie was able to hit the pack at speed and kicked truly at the familiar set of goals at the Roberts end. Taj was also proving lively up forward taking marks and backing himself from 40m out. A couple of missed opportunities had the Rovers just a few points down at the 3/4 huddle.
With the plee of no more lapses and commitment to apply relentless pressure, Maxie led the way in the ruck giving up inches but not in heart and determination. Jacky G was finding space to run and carry on his wing and delivered the ball the CHF. But another easy rebound led to a and ES goal, and another soon followed, and the scoreboard was just starting to get out of reach. That didn’t bother Christian S who with his flashy green boots snapped truly to give his side a glimmer of hope with less than 5 min to play. A series of missed opportunities followed, but when another late goal reduced the margin to 6 points there was still 25 seconds left on the clock and a miracle beckoned. With the call out “just win the next clearance and drive it long”, that is exactly what happened, but with the tallest kid in SMJFL u12 standing in the way at our forward arc the ball was intercepted as the siren sounded.
We were very proud of the boys representing the Hampton Rovers jumper, particularly in their effort and determination to fight the game out to the very end. On reflection we felt given the missed opportunities it was perhaps a game that we should have won, but the reality of a couple of 5 minute lapses in 3 of the 4 quarters allowed the opposition to get consecutive goals, was probably where the game was lost. We go into the school holiday break behind the eight ball, but with 5 games to go the season is far from over and we look forward to challenge upon returning from a well earnt break for all.
Ash & Sean