Sunday 12th August saw the U17 Sandy-Rovers travel to Bentleigh for the final home and away fixture of the season. A fitting game being set up for the final round as we would be battling for 1st place on the ladder against Bentleigh, a team which had (only just) got the better of us on both previous occasions. Today, it would be fair to say our boys were fired-up for a positive result.
The beginning of the game was fast and scrappy as both teams were hunting for an early advantage and skills were definitely down as the pressure grew rapidly. With the Sandy-Rovers kicking downfield, we gained an early lead of several behinds, unfortunately not hitting the scoreboard in the ways that counted. Bentleigh grabbed the first goal of the game and finished the first quarter holding a 10 point lead.
Once the second quarter was underway it was clear that the clean ball movement and the clean-skilled playmaking of the Sandy-Rovers wouldn’t be prominent today as the ball rebounded from defensive 50 to attacking 50 countless times with both teams struggling to hit the scoreboard. We finished the half with Bentleigh holding a close 8 point deficit. It seemed this game would be a low-scoring affair and goals would be particularly hard to come by.
With the disappointment of the last 2 meetings against Bentleigh being in the forefront of their minds, our boys were determined to make this result a success and it certainly showed as the boys came out firing from the break, kicking 2.5 to Bentleigh’s singular goal and therefore taking a narrow 3-point lead going into a pretty tense last quarter.
With momentum behind our lads after a great 3rd quarter showing, we were confident we could get the job done in the remaining 20 minutes. An extremely hard-fought final term followed, as the ball struggled to find space anywhere on the ground. Bentleigh had the downfield advantage this term and a breeze at their backs – unfortunately this proved a step too far for the Rovers as inaccuracy in front of goals cost us dearly and we went down by a mere 2 points in a frantic final few minutes of play.
Some notable performances included Marcus White who played a great Captains-game from the half back line, Ben Allen who battled away in the ruck all day and beat his opponent repeatedly in a tough outing. Lastly, Will Nolan, whose ball use on the wing was exceptional, along with him being one of the few who were able to find genuine space in a tight-knit contest.
A loss like this can be disappointing on many levels, however due to a solid, consistent season we have been given another opportunity to face Bentleigh in the first round of the Finals next Sunday, which will be our first chance to secure a Grand Final berth. After 15 rounds of building towards the Finals, we now have the chance to stamp our authority on the most important part of the football calendar……..and we all know our boys are ready to do just that!