By Nick Creely
SOUTH EAST FOOTBALL NETBALL LEAGUE
REVIEW – ROUND 8
It was a game as fierce as the almost arctic conditions.
And in the end, it was Cranbourne who were just cleaner on the outside to upstage a plucky Beaconsfield side who never wavered in intensity.
The long sleeves were certainly the fashionable item among the players at Frenken Homes Oval at Casey Fields on Saturday, and it became clear from the outset that the side willing to crack into the contest and drive the ball forward at all costs would walk away with the four points.
Many eyes were firmly focused on 987-goal champion Marc Holt, with recruit Mitchell Wallace given the dangerous task of quelling the perennial goal machine.
It was a quiet start for the scoreboard operators, with plenty of stoppages signalling the direction of the game.
The Beaconsfield midfield were getting terrific first use by Scott Meyer, but fiddled around with the football by hand on the outside to eventually gift the opening goal of the match to Shaun Marusic, who instantly exerted an influence off half-back.
As pressure increased, star midfielder and Casey Demon jet Jimmy Munro was all class, producing plenty of searing runs to get the ball moving the right way.
Munro – who had a serious case of leather poisoning in the first term – was pivotal with his hardness around the ball too, and loomed as the match-winner.
With spearhead Nathan Langley up and about, the visitors suddenly surged out late in the first quarter, taking in a 10-point lead after slamming on three unanswered goals.
That control that seeped through the midfield continued on with Munro and Meyer working in tandem superbly, and it started to reflect on the scoreboard.
But the home side found their mojo eventually after Leigh McQuillen’s side squandered some chances on the other end, and a late flurry courtesy of superb work down the field by Marusic, Glenn Osborne, Ryan Jones and Luke Bee-Hugo gave dangerous forwards such as Nathan Gardiner, Tommy Marks and Nick Russo plenty of chances.
At half time, the home side shivered their way to the rooms with a 16-point advantage, with light drizzle giving them a major advantage.
Champion ruckman Michael Boland was a major casualty early in the third quarter, going down clutching his knee after getting his leg trapped underneath a teammate in a marking contest.
Cranbourne coach Steve O’Brien said the club faces a nervous wait to see the extent of the injury.
“We’re still awaiting results, so we’re not certain – it’s a knee, but we’re awaiting the scan results,” he said.
Despite holding firm in a tense, fierce final half that was perhaps reflected by the home side’s accuracy (3.3 to 2.9), O’Brien was proud of his side to adapt in a game that didn’t quite going for them.
“I don’t think we ever really got our game going, and credit to Beaconsfield for that – it was quite a contested game, so yeah, we had little patches where we opened them up and hit the scoreboard, and it was telling in the end,” he said.
That ability to hit the scoreboard when it mattered was reflected in the home side’s lacklustre third quarter, in which youngster Nick Russo kept Beaconsfield at bay with a gritty set shot from a tough angle to stretch the margin to 15-points deep in the quarter.
In a low scoring affair, it was arguably the most important moment of the match.
Despite Holt being held goalless in an absorbing battle, O’Brien said his side simply doesn’t rely on just one goalkicker to win matches.
“It’s something we’ve been good at all year, having more than one avenue to goal,” he said.
“In most games this season, we’ve had a good spread, and that continued on which was important for us.”
But O’Brien praised his midfield for battling through and exerting maximum pressure, and his defensive unit for its resolute effort in a tense final term.
“The midfield was even, if anything they might have won it in the end – once Boland went off injured, we battled hard, and probably weight of numbers took its toll in the second half,” he said.
“Scotty (Meyer) probably got on top, and they surged the ball forward a bit.
“(And) our backlines a real strength of ours, we have a lot of trust in our guys down there – but they need support, and a lot of that comes down to the pressure being applied down the field.
“If you don’t have that pressure, they will be exposed, and that’s an area we’ve been really good at it.”
In what turned into a hard fought loss, Jake Bowd, Munro, Meyer and Riley Welsh were outstanding for the visitors, while Nathan Langley and Taylor Joyce battled valiantly to kick five of the six goals against a sturdy defence.
For Cranbourne, Marusic relished the conditions, while the likes of Glenn Osborne, the versatile Troy Tharle and Nathan Gardiner all impacted the game.
The conditions – which were hard for players to adjust to – proved crucial in a low scoring contest, with the home side able to overcome some fierce wind.
“Given that it’s our home ground, we get used to training in those windy conditions, but we handled it ok, it was tough for both sides,” O’Brien said.
“It was a good, contested game, aside from that it probably wasn’t great viewing skill wise, but those conditions made it tough.”
The win gives O’Brien’s side some breathing space in second spot ahead of a crucial block of games against Narre Warren and Berwick.
“We’ve probably had an eye on this three week patch for a while now, and these are the games you play footy for – going out and having easy, soft wins is not really what you play for,” he said.
“While it’s good to just win, there’s not a lot of enjoyment – with Micky Boland probably unavailable for at least these games until we find out, we’ll have our challenges, and we’ll need to come up with something against two really good sides.”
Beaconsfield takes on Berwick in the massive ‘Battle of the Creek’ clash, in a must-win encounter for both teams.
CRANBOURNE 1.3 7.3 8.3 10.6 (66)
BEACONSFIELD 3.1 4.5 5.8 6.14 (50)
GOALS: N. Gardiner 3, T. Marks 3, N. Russo, S. Marusic, T. Tharle , C. Angus
BEST: G. Osborne, S. Marusic, T. Tharle , Z. Roscoe, C. Ramac, N. Gardiner
GOALS: N. Langley 3, T. Joyce 2, D. Johnston
BEST: J. Bowd, J. Munro, D. Johnston, S. Meyer, R. Welsh, T. Stokoe