Ladder tightening at both ends in William Buck Premier

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Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead

Seven games, seven losses & seven weeks of ‘what-could-of-been’ dissipated when Old Scotch broke through for their first win of 2018, defeating Old Xaverians by six points at Camberwell Sports Ground. A large concern for the Cardinals has been their first quarters given they’d kicked just eight goals to 23 in the opening seven rounds. However, coming up against the old foe for the first time since Round 18 in 2015, the Cardinals fired early and piled on six goals to two – equalling the total number of first-term goals they’d kicked from Rounds 2 – 7. Xavs hit back in the second and led by four points at the main break, before Scotch kicked nine goals to seven in the second half. Jack Bull continued his outstanding season with a best-on-ground performance and James Sansom kicked three goals for the first time since Round 2. Josh Halsall added another layer of class upon his return to the Cardinals’ outfit and he took little time to find his feet with two goals. Former Sale FC and Gippsland Power representative, Brad Olsson, starred for Xavs alongside Hayden Troiani and Tomi Johnston. The result means there is only one game separating Xavs (8th) from Scotch (9th) and SBMT (10th) at the bottom end of the ladder.

Collegians handed St Kevin’s OB their first loss of the season when the two sides met in the William Buck Premier Grand Final replay at Harry Trott Oval. The Lions had 31 scoring shots to 18 over the course of the match as they dominated possession and the inside 50 count. The Lions’ forward pressure was a standout, but they were unable to maximise early dominance as they continually kicked long inside 50 where SKOB defenders, who pride themselves on not allowing one-on-one contests, quelled their attack and successfully rebounded the other way. It did not, however, last too long as the Lions improved their ball use moving forward and kicked away in the final three quarters barring a late third-quarter charge from SKOB. Sam Hibbins was best afield as he mixed his innate ability to win the contested ball, clearances and aerial supremacy with three crucial goals, while Tom Penberthy delivered a supreme performance in the ruck. Michael Di Natale and Vincent Adducci were outstanding for SKOB while Conor Ross continues to impress from defence. Ross is the prototypical footballer every player should want to line up alongside with his no frills approach to the game, and his unrelenting attack on both the contest and ball carrier irrespective of size. Both sides remain first and second on the ladder but have an Old Brighton outfit on the same number of premiership points in third.

The Tonners, who now trail SKOB and Collegians on percentage alone, proved too strong for Old Trinity as they ran out 39-point winners at Daley Oval. 32 scoring shots to 18 gives a glimpse of the Tonners’ dominance over four quarters as Harry Hill (3 goals), Anthony Zimmerman (3) and Will Lewis (4) continued their outstanding individual form. While the Tonners’ depth will be tested before the end of the season with their reserves having won just one match so far – also against Trinity on the weekend – the finals-like form of the seniors is undeniable as they rank fourth for both points for (89ppg) and points against (78ppg). The fourth-placed T’s have now lost three of their past five against the trio of sides sitting above them on the ladder. During that five-game stretch, they’ve drawn with University Blues and won just once against De La. They travel to Elsternwick Park and take on OM’s this weekend in a game that will decide whether they sit inside the four at the half way mark of the season.

After losing the first three games of the season, University Blues continued their recovery with a 46-point victory over St Bedes/Mentone Tigers at Uni Oval. Four goals from Ayce Cordy led the way for the Blues, while Tim Harper and Tim Gaeppen kicked three each. The Blues have now won three of their past five and drawn against the T’s, allowing them to sit in sixth spot on the ladder and only one game outside the four. While they’ve allowed the third-most points against in the opening eight rounds (88.6ppg), the Blues have no issues hitting the scoreboard and rank third for points kicked (89.9ppg). Conversely, the Tigers are finding it tough with seven straight losses and this weekend’s defeat means they drop to 10th spot on the ladder. Michael Barnes was named the Tigers’ best for the third time in five weeks, while Kieren Arthur was their only multiple goal kicker with two. They face off with Old Scotch in a blockbuster at Brndisi St Oval this weekend, with the winner to place a one-game buffer between the two sides.

Old Melburnians moved to within half a game of the top four following their 35-point victory over De La Salle at Elsternwick Park. Despite a slow start where they trailed De La by nine points at the first break, OM’s kicked 14 goals to seven in the remaining three quarters with captain and Big V star Tom Paule leading the way. Al Armstrong finished the day with his second five-goal haul for the season, while Nick Daish and Sam Hooper impressed. Outside of their Round 1 loss to SBMT, OM’s have won against all other sides currently below them on the ladder and lost to SKOB, Collegians and Brighton. They do, however, sit in fifth spot on the ladder and just two premiership points behind the T’s as they face the prospect of defeating a team above them for the first time this weekend. De La were in trouble early after losing defenders Jordan Bull and Howard Persson when the pair collided in the first term, before Sam Michael left the field with a suspected broken hand in the second. The injury toll affects all clubs, but De La would certainly be feeling the pinch with names like Matt Fieldsend, David Lowe, Joe Black, Adrian Indovino, Hugh Nicholson, Brendan Close and Josh Scipione among those sidelined. Things will certainly get harder before getting easier for De La as they face SKOB at TH King this weekend.