And then there were two in William Buck Premier…

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Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead

William Buck Premier supporters were gifted a dream fixture over the weekend with all five match-ups boasting their own storylines detailing where each side is situated five rounds into the season.

The 96.5 Inner FM Match of the Round between St Kevin’s and Old Xaverians garnered more attention than any other match as the rival clubs looked to gain a winning edge in what is tipped to be the first of at least three encounters in 2017. Neither side had lost a game prior to the clash and supporters turned out to TH King in droves following an exciting build-up to the clash. And boy did it deliver. Trailing by five goals at three quarter time, SKOB piled on 6.6 to one behind in a dramatic final term and ran out 11-point winners. Anthony Lynch, who kicked the go-ahead goal with just minutes remaining, was instrumental in the ruck contest and gave John Shaw something to think about while Mark Jamar had his own battle with Dan Noonan up forward. Ben Dowd’s clearance work across all four quarters was elite and his performance certainly covered Nick Wood’s absence in SKOB’s midfield. Despite being down on his usual output through the first four rounds (five goals), Brendan Goss turned it on for this showdown and nailed seven for Xavs, including three in the first term. The reigning premiers led at every break throughout the match but surprisingly failed to stem SKOB’s fourth-term onslaught, with star defender Nick Wynne suffering an injury mid-way through the match. The 2017 story between these two sides has only just commenced but if Episode 1 is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.

Collegians were tasked with their toughest test of the season and the team most likely to break their unbeaten run, Old Trinity. It was a match the Lions had to win to solidify their flag intentions and it does not get much more difficult than facing the T’s on the Daley. However, after seven straight goals to 2.2 in the first term, the Lions rarely looked threatened on the scoreboard and held the T’s at an arm’s length for the remainder of the match. Five of the Lions’ six best players were off-season recruits (Emley, Cassidy, Post, Michie and Dixon), validating their decision to go hard over the transfer period. They are 5-0, boast an offensive arsenal averaging 93.2 points per game and have already had four games of more than 80 points. In comparison, they hit the 80 mark just twice throughout the entire 2016 season while eventual grand finalists, Old Trinity and Old Xaverians, kicked at least 80 points 21 times between them (9-12). As for the T’s, they’ve endured the three most difficult opposition teams to curtail over the past three weeks (SKOB, OX & Coll) and were unable to taste victory in any of those matches. Jack Osborn, Harry Thompson and Harry Tinney continued their impressive form but the team has averaged just five goal kickers per game over the past three weeks, with Seb Nicolosi’s three against the Xavs the biggest bag over that period. They will return to form against Beaumaris this weekend and if they can get Brendan Iezzi back into the fold alongside Jake Steinhart and a fit Andrew Kyriacopoulos, the T’s will bounce back sooner rather than later.

Neither Old Melburnians or University Blacks had registered a win going into Round 5 but both sides came out the other end with their seasons well and truly up and running. OMs held on to defeat University Blues by six points at Sportscover Arena, with Nick De Steiger and Tom Paule leading the charge for second time in three rounds. While they’ve lost three out of five, the beauty of OMs is they continue to compete throughout most their matches and were just three points shy of Xavs in Round 2. Their match-up against Blacks bodes as one of the matches of the round and if veterans such as Matt Thomas can continue to star alongside young guns like Tom Cameron, it will stand the OMs is good stead over the next month. Connor Lappin continued his outstanding start to the year and was named the Blues’ best while Kieran Harper claimed top spot on the goal kicking leader board with his four majors taking his season tally to 15 and three ahead of second place. The Blues have been outstanding in their two wins with an average score of 96.5, but managed just 68 points in their three losses. They’ll be keen to bounce back after two straight six-point losses and the impending return of Tom Quinn should add the missing piece up forward.

After four losses; including two near misses against Old Trinity (two points) and De La Salle (three), Uni Blacks entered the winners’ column via a comprehensive 11-goal to two second half against St Bedes/Mentone Tigers. Trailing by 23 points at the half, the Blacks were relentless in the third term as they piled on eight unanswered goals. They’re continually doing it in halves at the moment but it matters little when you can dominate as fiercely as they Blacks did over the last two terms. Lachlan Huntington and Harry Allen starred while John Vrodos kicked three. The Tigers would have liked their chances after defeating the Blues on the same Uni Oval deck just one week earlier. However, as has been the case in all four losses this year, they’ve been outscored in the second half of the match. In those losses, the Tigers average 39 points in the first half but have mustered just 29.75 in the final two quarters, showcasing a proclivity for releasing the pressure. James Tyquin is in fine form and they are heading back to Brindisi for an enticing match-up against De La Salle.

De La Salle’s early season resurgence continued as they defeated Beaumaris by 23 points at Waverley Oval and entered the top four one game clear of the chasing pack. De La were inaccurate in front of goal (9.23) but another best-on-ground performance from Jason Tutt and three goals from Sean Fisher helped them to their third consecutive win. Tutt’s inclusion has arguably been the most successful individual inclusion (Collegians win the transfer period hands down) of any side as he joins the like of Sam Haslem, Jake and Sam Williams on the wide expanses of Waverley. Speaking of inclusions, it was great to see former St Kilda defender and All-Australian, Sam Fisher, pull on the Sharks guernsey for the first time this year. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring about the Sharks’ first victory of the season but if he can stay fit, it will go a long way to his side getting the four points. Mitchell Howes was a standout in his first outing for the season, while Rob Cathcart and Scott Braithwaite continued their stellar form. The Sharks have two tough weeks ahead against last year grand finalists, but will then come up against the Tigers in a much-anticipated re-match.

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