By Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
After two weeks of relative unknowns and surprising performances, a sense of calm seemed to fall over William Buck Premier as pre-game favourites celebrated victories on Saturday afternoon.
Whether favourites by a length or a nose, Old Trinity, Old Melburnians, University Blues, Old Xaverians and De La Salle earnt the four points on the back of strong performances and each now sit 1-5 on the ladder.
The T’s clashed with St Bernard’s in the William Buck Grand Final rematch and proved too strong for the winless Snow Dogs as they ran out 32-point victors at the Snake Pit. The idea of grand final revenge simply does not exist in the home and away fixture, but the T’s would be ecstatic with their early-season form; including, three consecutive wins and top spot on the ladder. Alex Polidoros was unstoppable as the mid-sized dynamo bagged five goals in his most impressive performance of the season and Andrew Kyriacopolous was outshone only by Callum Pohl. As for the Snow Dogs, they’re currently depleted. They had 10 goal kickers in last year’s grand final and had seven missing from this squad. The three still playing were Alex Boyse, Tom Sullivan and Nathan Kazuro, and they were missing 2015 joint Woodrow medallist, Adam Bentick. Sitting 0-3 and with a percentage of 60.74, it will take immediate improvement to make finals again, but they shouldn’t be discounted three rounds in.
Old Melburnians improved their win/loss record to 2-1 after they made relatively light work of Old Carey, defeating them by 77 points for their first victory away from home. The De Steiger’s – Justin and Nick – caused havoc all over the ground, while Tim Marshall registered four goals. Succumbing to their largest loss this season, the Panthers will take confidence out of the continued excellence of Sam Cust, who ran riot in his third consecutive standout performance.
The Uni Derby rarely disappoints and this year was no exception as the Blues held off a fast-finishing Blacks by 14 points. Despite trailing all day, the Blacks registered three late goals to give them the slightest of sniffs in the dying moments but clutch work from best on ground, Jeremy Mugavin, and four goals from Patrick Hayes proved too steep a hill to climb. Not as if it is a surprise, but Adam Pitt continues to produce weekly for the Blacks, with two stunning grabs highlighting his effort.
Old Xaverians and St Kevin’s reignited their storied rivalry at TH King Oval, with the Xavs running out 40-point winners. Goal kicking magnate and William Buck Premier leader, Matt Handley, booted four after quarter time and took his overall season tally to 13 from three games, while the other half of the Xavs’ one-two punch, Brendan Goss, kicked four of his own. It was the first genuine glimpse of the trouble Handley and Goss’ Langer-Hayden partnership will cause for opposition defences this season, and it will likely go a long way to determining the Xavs’ fortune in the backend of the season. SKOB are yet to register their first win but – as mentioned last week – still wait on the return of a handful of premiership stars such as Anthony Lynch and Stephen Gilham.
De La Salle remain as impressive as any side in the competition as they continue to roll full steam ahead, with Collegians the latest victim of the seemingly unstoppable De La train. Losing 2009 joint Woodrow medallist, Matt Fieldsend, to long-term injury is devastating, but the boys from De La showed they are capable of temporarily filling the void with a 34-point win at Waverley Oval. Sam Pickett is a weapon, Tom Humphrey is in Team of the Year form and the Williams brothers will cause headaches for every opposition side this year. If Fieldsend returns in the latter half of the season, De La will be there. The Lions were not without their own standout performances as Sam Hibbins and Thomas Penberthy reminded the competition of their individual prowess.
This weekend may see a throwback to two weeks ago, with a number of match-ups capable of going either way. One and three will face off in the Inner FM Match of the Round, with the T’s clashing with De La at Daley Oval. Collegians host the undefeated Blues, while Blacks and SKOB go head-to-head at Uni Oval. The Snow Dogs will try to get on the board against OMs, as will the Panthers against the Xavs at Toorak Park.
Round 4 Tips
Old Trinity vs De La Salle
Collegians vs University Blues
University Blacks vs St Kevin’s
Old Melburnians vs St Bernard’s
Old Xaverians vs Old Carey
*Feature photo: Ari Hatzis