Old Xaverians: 13.7-85
Round 3 saw the boys from Xavier bid farewell to their au pairs and butlers and venture to the unfamiliar wilds of a real-life government school’s grounds.
The traditionally strong football school however was left shell shocked when Melbourne High came out firing in the first quarter, big Adam Ashton dominating ruck contests to provide Josh Vellin and Ben Southam first use of the ball before a big Arran Bouten got on the end of a lace out ball to nail our first goal. With our onballers dominating the inside game throughout the quarter, the only lowlights came when we lost both Bubba Bowen to a calf injury and Arran Bouten to a heavy head knock following a collision. Chris Miller gave us a reason to smile however with a major and maybe a finger point afterwards as is his customary celebration. The defenders were kept busy during the first as well, but for the most part they held their own against a big bodied Xavier forward line. Stuart Grigg was influential down back while Troy Diedrich was as reliable as ever. With our gutsy in and under fight and Southam’s explosive run from centre clearances limiting Xavier’s outside run, it was the Unicorns who came in a goal ahead at quarter time.
With Coach Johnson terming it as “trench warfare versus the charge of the light brigade” at quarter time, there was passion flowing through the camp and a real belief that we could match it with Xavier. The second became the Ben Southam show, Adam Ashton providing Ben with plenty of clearances. Ben showed he could do it all in the second, hitting the scoreboard with a sausage roll following a strong mark and handball from Morgan Cole with Brendan Reeiiddyy using his body to see it clear the line safely.
With the April sun shining like it does in Cuba, whoa-oh-oh, it was warm work out on the field and again the backline were working overtime to repel Xavier’s forays, Grylls working well with usual suspects Jamie Anderson, Adam Granger and Diedrich to nullify their opponenets. Grigg once again gave plenty of run from the backline and with the ball rebounding fast, we were able to feed our forwards with opportunities.
Relishing Coach Johnson’s masterstroke to push him forward, Demi Pinxt took one such opportunity with a brilliant roving effort of the pack, Demi snapping truly under pressure from 40m out to keep the High School ascendant. Albert Kuang had plenty of it for the quarter, as did Vellin and Chris Miller, while Linford Dean gave us a strong target up forward in the absence of Arran Bouten. Indeed it was Linford who found the ball in his hands with just seconds to spare, Lance Meyer finding the distance from the timer clock to the siren switch to be an arduous journey that needed not to be done quickly, but to be done right. And right he did it, Linford afforded a shot on goal after the siren which he duly converted.
With a lead of 17 points at half time, confidence and ambition was high. The third however saw closer attention played to the dominant Southam, Xavier sending their players in off the line to negate his influence in the middle. It was tough going down back for the quarter, Xavier adding 4 goals with pinpoint passes to their solid full forward making Granger’s job nigh on impossible. Up forward we were somewhat wasteful, a number of careless “down the line” kicks into our forward line being picked off by waiting Xavier defenders. We did however manage to hit the scoreboard with a couple of goals for the quarter, Rob Coxon (on his “John Farnham: The Last Time” comeback tour) leading hard to mark and kick one from the boundary while Carlo Dellora brought up another 6 points for the Unicorn with a goal to excite the team.
With the gap closed at 3/4 time, it was anyone’s game, but with Adam Ashton being sent off amidst a fracas early in the last, it was our lack of big men stocks that proved decisive. Unfortunately in the last quarter we just couldn’t hit the scoreboard while Xavier repeatedly found targets on breakaways, Melbourne High’s defenders unable to cope with multiple free-running targets running forward. The only real highlight for the last quarter was Brendan Reidy’s mark in the centre of the ground that saw him feign a handball before playing on and bouncing the ball after having run two metres forward of the mark. Some described it as “spectacular”, others “exciting”, others again “a bit premature?”, however it was a rare highlight in a quarter where we were simply overrun by the light brigade of Xavier in a manner in which Tennyson’s poetic subjects could not manage in their battle against Russian artillery in 1854.
Xavier ran away winners by 29 points, however we can take stock that we ran last year’s premiers to the brink for three quarters – with more efficient ball use going forward in our re-match, anything is possible.
Goal Kickers: D. Pinxt, C. Miller, L. Dean, C. Dellora, R. Coxon, S. Grigg, B. Southam, A. Bouten
Best Players: B. Southam, S. Grigg, A. Ashton, L. Dean, C. Miller