After what seemed like a 2+ hour buildup to the game with boys gathering for the photo shoot, the boys were ready for action upon arriving at the home of East Sandringham. There was a bit of talk amongst the boys (maybe too much talk) about the opposition, and we knew East Sandringham had been bolstered by the addition of some tall timber. The key instruction was to not play into East Sandringham hands by kicking to packs or down the line where it would bring their talls into play. Oli Howell led the boys onto the new deck at Chisholm Reserve, and won the toss and pointed to the northern end favoured by the breeze.
Upon the first bounce we knew we were in for a battle, with the early clearances being won by East Sandringham, and their ball movement and marking coming into immediate prominence. If not for the efforts of Jake T in the last line of defence, there could have been some early damage on the scoreboard. With a string of East Sandringham points we were unable to clear the ball past their well-structured wall across half back, until Luke won some contested footy and started to provide some rebound. Enter Jules off the bench who laid our first genuine tackle of the game, and reset the tone of the game lifting his team mates. With some long ball entry into the forward line, Elliot was the opportunist who snapped a goal against run of play. The scoreboard advantage didn’t last too long with East Sandringham once again winning the clearance and after a series of marks posted a goal just before the siren. With scores level at 1/4 time, whilst we had the wind, we felt fortunate not to be a few goals down.
With the wind advantage the intensity from East Sandringham went to another level in the second quarter. Whilst the defence led by Lucas and Billy were defending to instruction using the boundary line, they posted their second goal and the coaching group were genuinely concerned about what may lay ahead. Archie responded with a couple of clean centre breaks to send the ball deep into the forward line, although we were unable to convert nor lock the ball in. The game became played between the arcs for a period where James and Oli H were working hard at ground level. However, when East Sandringham pressed forward and posted their 3rd goal at about 10 min mark, it’s fair to say the floodgates opened up with another 3 goals conceded before half time, and the Rovers went into the dugout with our tails between our legs.
The half time message was about bringing the game back to basics, to be accountable for our man, but when win possession play our style of footy take and take the opposition on. And that is what Josh D did in finding space on his wing, providing run and carry into the forward line where he won the ball back to drill the first of his 2 goals for the quarter. East Sandringham attempts at going forward were thwarted by some heavy bullocking work from Josh B, as well as Nicho playing his sweeping role and Maxie who was sent back to stiffen up the backline. With Maso and Tedworking relentlessly in sharing the ruck duties against their tall timber, and the likes of Kai and Jenson winning lots of the contested footy, a different Rovers team was on display. With Kyle sent forward to create opportunities for his team, and Christian competing hard at ground level the ball was locked in our forward half. This led to a second goal, and after keeping East Sandringham scoreless for the quarter, there was some genuine hope at 3/4 time.
The glimmer of hope was quickly put out as East Sandringham won the first clearance that led to an immediate goal, and a momentum swing that we never looked like regaining. Whilst the boys never gave up, East Sandringham gained further scoreboard advantage with a couple of junk time goals.
In what was a further sign that Div 1 footy is going to be one tough game after another, we could take some solace that from our 3rd quarter effort where we showed some resilience to not only fight back but also proved to ourselves that we can play the game on our own terms. We need to be prepared to work harder for longer, but also smarter when we have control of the ball. More effective use of handball when under pressure will be the focus at training this week.
Ash & Sean