Eagles in Gunn’s firing line

Beaconsfield and Berwick took their clash to the absolute wire on Saturday. 193293 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Nick Creely



What a Gunn.

In a match that flipped on its head so frequently after half-time it was impossible to know who would walk away with the four-points, it came down to one moment, from one man in the dying minutes to seal a result.

Berwick forward Tim Gunn stepped up to the plate, wheeled onto his left boot and snapped the Wickers to victory by a whisker, only moments after Beaconsfield had snatched the lead with a Matthew Johnson major in a classic ‘Battle of the Creek’ clash at Holm Park on Saturday, 7.8 (50) to 6.12 (48).

Although Gunn’s clutch-moment – in a career where he is getting known for producing big moments when they are needed – was a culmination of two hours of intense pressure and the force of the vocal crowd, it was an almighty slug for the most part, but nonetheless engrossing viewing.

Both sides really tested each other out in the early parts of the opening term, and it wasn’t until classy forward Harry Money juggled a mark and converted that the Wickers were able to truly get their game up and running.

Moments later, the returning premiership star James Magner soccered through a goal from the middle of the pack out of nothing, and suddenly they were controlling the match, and showcasing their elite skills, particularly through the likes of Ash Smith and Luke Jellyman-Turner, who were racking up mountains of the footy without Travis Tuck there in the middle.

While the Eagles went into the quarter time break without a goal next to their name, they did plenty of things right. When they were able to control the footy, and then find a hole to surge forward quickly, they looked dangerous, with midfielder Riley Verbi particularly dangerous on a wing with his classy ball use.

And although it was, at times, a tough game to watch in the second quarter with only Matthew Johnson adding a major for the Eagles, it set-up a fascinating second-half, with the home side really stepping up their game and looking to play more free-flowing footy.

Gunn broke the sluggishness with a classy snap early in the third quarter, before a James McLean major and a questionable free kick resulting in a goal to Harry Money (two goals) within a matter of moments suddenly saw the Wickers surge out to a game-high 21-points midway through the third.

With champion big-man Scott Meyer spending all day up forward and emerging ruckman Riley Welsh taking on the duties superbly, the home side began their fightback, with Meyer dribbling two goals on the eve of three-quarter-time to get them to within eight-points.

Every disposal, tackle, mark and shot on goal was met with an inevitable shriek from the crowd in a riveting final 30 minutes.

A horror turnover out of the back-half saw Kyle O’Sullivan nail a set-shot and the first of the final term to the Eagles, and with Verbi racking up stacks of the ball, and Jake Bowd considerably lifting his standard off half-back, the home side appeared to be running on top.

Behinds were scored as both teams looked for the game-breaking goal, and it was Matthew Johnson (three goals) who found just an inkling of space within minutes left on the clock, putting the home side in front for the first time of the day with a set-shot that sailed through the middle.

With the prospect of a shock loss on the horizon for the Wickers, the champion team that has dominated the local region for two straight years came to the fore.

Sensing the moment, James Magner sharked the centre bounce, handing off to Ash Smith who had a running Madi Andrews to his left, who then drove the ball into attack.

Smith once again used all of his class to find another clearance, driving the ball deep into attack where a fumble from the Eagles saw the ball land into the hands of Gunn, who nailed the match-winning shot under immense pressure, putting them back in front.

The Wickers were then able to soak up the remaining few minutes to ice a brilliant victory in a rivalry that certainly has another chapter to tell this year.

In a cracking contest, Eagle Riley Verbi was arguably best afield in a losing cause, while Jellyman-Turner and the match-winner Tim Gunn (three goals) were absolutely brilliant.In other matches across the Premier Division, and after a second-straight drubbing, there are now genuine danger signs for Wandin if they can’t find a way to be competitive in the south-east.

The challenges for the Yarra Valley clubs venturing down to the wide expanses of the south-east in the inaugural season of AFL Outer East was always going to be interesting.

After Beaconsfield torched the Dogs by 110-points in a three-goal team performance at Holm Park, Nick Adam’s group were simply blown away by Cranbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday, 25.14 (164) to 3.11 (29).

Remarkably, the Dogs have conceded 45 goals to six in these previous two matches, and have been unable to keep up on the larger grounds.

In Saturday’s clash, the Dogs actually kicked two opening term goals to just trail by four-points at quarter time, but the Eagles’ speed, dare and ball-movement proved irresistible, booting 22 goals to one in the final three terms, with 9.7 to 0.1 coming in the final term alone.

On yet another dirty day for the Dogs, Anthony Vella (five goals), Shaun Marusic (four goals), Mitch Tharle (four goals) were all dominant forward of centre, while Jordan Bertrand, Stuart Morrish and Glenn Osborne were in complete control across half-back.

Narre Warren 21.14 (140), meanwhile, were too good for a much-improved Healesville 7.8 (50) away from home.

With the Magpies missing some big names, including that of Michael Collins and Aaron Wilson, Matt Shinners’ group found plenty of avenues to goal, with 10 individual goal kickers, including a five-goal display from Peter Gentile.

Skipper Dylan Quirk and Nathan Foote continued their blistering 2019 campaigns with another dominant display in the win, while Jake Roe-Duggan was the best for the Bloods.

In the final match of the round, Woori Yallock held off Olinda Ferny Creek to move to an impressive 3-0, 11.8 (74) to 6.9 (45

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