Despite the forecasts of armageddon earlier in the week – the Div 4 U14 game was played in beautiful sunshine at the home of Ajax.
Coach Griffo was busy on the magnets prior to the game as our regular full forward (Noah) and fullback (Max) were both out injured plus we were unable to borrow any Vampires players this week. At one stage during the week we were down to 14 but some reshuffling of the Div 1 Team saw us grab James Hope, Jack Tuffley and Benjo Wells – and some top ups from the U12 Div 2 team – Jacob Cassidy and Harry and Mitch Tuffley. Plus Mitch Gathercole was back after 2 operations in 3 weeks!!
But back to the game. It was pretty obvious from early on that it was going to be tight. Ajax had size and skills but not the speed. We had speed and skills but not the size.
We kicked with the wind in the first quarter but at quarter time it was all locked away at 7 a piece. We were looking the better team and but for an unlucky bounce Harry Griffen would have had a goal with a few seconds to go. Their no. 33 was causing some issues in the midfield – using his size to get the ball and “meander” forward to boot it deep into their forward line. Despite first quarter notes being eaten by the dog I am almost certain that our goal kicker was Jack Kennedy (could have been James Hare though!).
There was concern written all over Coach Griffo’s face at quarter time as we had to kick into the stiff wind in the second quarter and it had the potential to turn ugly! The message to the team was to run – as it was clear from a few passages in the first quarter that Ajax couldn’t run us down.
It was in the second quarter when the reasons we are paying the big dollars to Coach Griffo became clear. His masterstroke of pulling Sam Palmer out of the Ruck and putting him to full back started paying big dividends. Sam’s sure hands saw him gather the ball cleanly and then run half the length of the field to put the ball into our forward line (with Ajax’s players losing ground every step) on several occasions. And the team work was great to see as 4 or 5 Rovers players were applying shepherds to any Ajax player who got within 20m of Sam.
This running thing must of been catching as Frenchy, Will, Aiden, Adam, both Jack’s, Tommy, Fraser, James Hare, Ed and Benjo also got into the action – covering a lot of metres to get it forward. Ajax couldn’t withstand the onslaught and Jack Tuffley popped up on the end of a couple of kicks to snag 2 for the quarter. Jack T was also on the highlight reel at the other end of the ground as he ran down one of the larger Ajax players who was lining up for a shot at goal. Looked like a great tackle to the totally unbiased Phantom but the player was adjudged to have a very long neck that continued down to his stomach.
But perhaps the highlight of the second quarter was when an Ajax player (unaware of who he was messing with) tried to put a sidestep on Hugh Harris. For those who have missed earlier reports, Hugh has a rugby background and should be giving tackling lessons to whole Rovers club. Needless to say the poor Ajax boy had no hope as Hugh wrapped him up in a spectacular manner (jumper over the head style) and was rewarded with a free kick.
We went into half time leading 22-8.
The third quarter was a slog- Ajax got an early goal to make a real game of it. We put the ball forward on numerous occasions through great runs but some unlucky bounces on boys running all alone straight at the goals meant we were unable to convert – UNTIL 10 seconds to go when a long ball in saw Harry Griffin grab it cleanly on the bounce and snap truly. Still very close at 3 quarter time 30-16.
The fourth quarter started well. Jack K got his name into the highlight reel with a genuine screamer at full forward! Unfortunately the adrenalin was prob still pumping too hard as he just missed the shot. We did manage a goal early and despite the pet Budgie eating the forth quarter notes, I’m pretty sure it was James Hare, who has been growing in confidence each week. Hopey was given the role of the loose man in defence and performed it to perfection. At one point sprinting down the wing taking several bounces.
But it still wasn’t over. We took the foot off the accelerator and Ajax slammed on 2 quick goals. Fortunately we woke up again – There was some more Sam Palmer magic and then the ball went forward after some magnificent ruck work from Tommy who put it straight into the hands of a running Will who found James Hare who sprinted 30 metres (with a bounce) into the open goal for the sealer. Not sure if there were any defenders around but they certainly weren’t keen on tackling a 6 foot something charging James Hare.
Final score – a WIN 46-28
It was a great team effort – special mentions to Caleb – in only his second game who really improved from game 1, Mitch Gathercole who had plenty of it in the forward line and the 3 U12s who helped us out – Jacob, Harry and Mitch – all who were very lively but did get “monstered” a few times for their trouble.
Final special mentions to the injured Noah and Max – both showing great clubmanship (is that a word?) turning up to cheer on their team mates.
The awards went to Frenchy, Aiden and Harry Griffen