Michael Shillito’s Round 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 Premier Division match reports are posted below.
The Eagles have performed well since their shock R3 loss against North Shore (see below), remaining undefeated since that match.
The premiership table as at the end of Round 7 is shown at this foot of this page.
ROUND 3 v NORTH SHORE
Footy can throw up some unexpected results, but not even the staunchest North Shore optimist could possibly have imagined what would transpire at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday afternoon.
East Coast Eagles were shock losers in last year’s Grand Final, but had kept most of their players for this year to attend to their unfinished business which started off with a big win in the Grand Final replay and a comfortable round 2 result. Playing at their home ground against a North Shore side that won just three games last year, and despite recruiting well and a good first-up result last week, wasn’t expected to trouble the Eagles.
North Shore had never beaten the Eagles’ seniors at Kanebridge and the last meeting between the two clubs late in 2015 saw the Eagles bring up a double-century. But that drought would be broken in emphatic style.
After the first 15 minutes, scores were locked together at two goals apiece. The Bombers were taking the fight up to the Eagles around the ground, denying easy possessions in what looked like a closely-contested passage of play. But as the clock ticked towards quarter time, it was North Shore who stepped up a gear and took control of the contest. Picking up the pace, finding run in their legs and with forward options presenting themselves, the Bombers kicked the last four goals of the quarter to lead by 23 points at the first change.
A footy game is a marathon, not a sprint and there was plenty of time for the Eagles to work their way back into the contest. Kicking the first two goals of the second term to get the margin back to 10 points, a return to the generally-expected form lines was a strong possibility.
But this was a North Shore side with more self-belief and more of a spring in their step than many thought they had in them. Backing themselves in the contests, shrugging the tackles and finding loose opponents when they needed to, the Bombers would only trouble the scoreboard attendant three times in the second term, but all three of them were goals, extending the lead to 25 points at half time.
When the premiership quarter came around, the Eagles attempted to fight their way back into the contest; but some uncharacteristic turnovers and some inaccurate finishing up forward would let them down. The run of play was going the Bombers’ way and the Eagles were powerless to prevent the margin blowing out further as North Shore added three goals to one to lead by 36 points at the last change.
Frustration was setting in among the Eagles, with some silly 50 metre penalties, while Damien Charleston finished the match with a yellow card. But the Bombers were playing with a new-found confidence and everything they touched turned to gold. Another quarter of three goals to one saw the Bombers complete a 47-point victory.
Around the ground, Wayd Blackburne, Selby Lee-Steere and Charlie Parsons wielded significant influence for the Bombers. But this was a stunning result and one that will make the Sydney footy world sit up and take notice. The Bombers had flown nicely under the radar until now, but suddenly they look to be genuine contenders.
The Eagles found willing workers all day in Bryce Joynson, Bailey Stewart and Ben Bourke, but it wasn’t to be their day. No doubt they’ll be up there at the business end of the season, they have too much talent not to; but they were caught off-guard by the resurgent Bombers this time.
North Shore 6.1 9.1 12.4 15.6 (96)
East Coast Eagles 2.2 4.6 5.10 6.13 (49)
North Shore – D Roberts 3, S Lee-Steere 3, S Mason 2, W Blackburne 2, W Bradley 2, A Quail, E Strudwick, K Latham.
East Coast – A McConnell 2, J Ford, M Eastman, T Baker, M Skuse.
North Shore – W Blackburne, S Lee-Steere, C Parsons, S Mason, W Bradley, N Hurrell.
East Coast – B Joynson, B Stewart, B Bourke, A Browning, A McConnell, A Drinkwater.
At Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 16th April 2016
ROUND 4 v MANLY WARRINGAH
Saturday afternoon saw the first wet weather footy for the season, as the heavens opened and the rock-hard surfaces of the early rounds were softened. Rain falling, a slippery ball; the running players struggle and the physical hard-tacklers come into their own.
But sunny weather was back on Sunday, as East Coast hosted Manly at Kanebridge Oval. The two sides had played a memorable match in the opening round last year when Manly came from nowhere to steal the game and this time around it would again go down to the wire. Little separated the two sides in the opening term as both sides put the defensive pressure on and neither was able to obtain a decisive advantage. Both were looking to bounce back from disappointment last week. And both were determined through a gritty opening term in which two goals apiece were scored with the Giants held a two-point lead at quarter time.
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to hit the front in the second term, as the home side lifted a gear and threatened to break away from the Giants. Manly were forced into resolute defence, as the Eagles were on top around the ground. With four goals to one in the second term, the Eagles took a 17-point lead into the rooms at half time.
The rain of Saturday, which hadn’t been as heavy in the north-west compared to the coast, had cleared by Sunday. There was nothing wrong with the conditions at Kanebridge Oval; the low scores were more a reflection of the tight tackling and defensive pressure. And there was plenty of that in the premiership quarter, as the Giants tried and succeeded in stopping the Eagle dominance of the second term and then tried to eke out some scoreboard pressure to get back into the game. The Giants won the quarter by two goals to one, cutting the margin back to nine points at the last change. But with memories of last year’s classic still fresh in everyone’s mind, this game was far from over.
A thrilling last quarter would see the Giants throw everything they had at the challenge. For much of the final term, the margin would be within a kick. Manly’s efforts to find the winning goals couldn’t be faulted and they would penetrate the big sticks three times during the final term. But the Eagles had the answering goals, three of them, enough to prevent the Giants from taking the lead. And when the final siren sounded, the Eagles had taken a narrow 10-point win.
Aaron Savage, Damien Charleston and Andrew Browning picked up plenty of the ball for the Eagles, keeping the ball moving their way when the game was there to be won. For East Coast, it was a return to the winning list and a result that keeps them comfortably inside the top five.
Gareth Benbow, Eric Burke and James Brain were best for Manly, but it wasn’t enough to take the points. The draw in the early rounds hasn’t been kind to the Giants, who find themselves winless after round four; but that includes a bye and losses to the three teams that finished ahead of them last season. There’s plenty of time for the Giants to work their way up the ladder, but they’ll be coming from a long way behind.
East Coast Eagles 2.2 6.4 7.5 10.8 (68)
Manly-Warringah 2.4 3.5 5.8 8.10 (58)
East Coast – A McConnell 3, Z Johns 2, M Eastman 2, B Joynson, M Skuse, T Baker.
Manly – A Robertson 3, T McCaffrey 2, D Meadows, E Burke, L Behagg.
East Coast – A Savage, D Charleston, A Browning, B Joynson, A McConnell, S Turner.
Manly – G Benbow, E Burke, J Brain, H Koch, L Brain, J Weir.
At Kanebridge Oval, Sunday 24th April 2016
ROUND 5 v ST GEORGE
Five rounds have been played so far this season, but the ladder is far from settled. After a round in which Manly enjoyed their first win and St George suffered their first defeat, for many clubs the season is intriguingly placed. Two teams expected to be thereabouts at the business end of the season faced off at Olds Park on Saturday afternoon when St George hosted East Coast. It would be a cracker of a contest. St George suffered their first defeat of the season, but not before taking up a massive challenge up to the Eagles.
Early on, it wasn’t looking like it would go down to the wire. The Eagles hit the ground running and got off to a flyer, dominating through the midfield and pumping the ball up forward with regularity. The Dragons were left to chase the contest and although they did manage two goals, were well and truly outplayed by a rampant Eagles side intent on doing maximum damage. And up on the forward line, they couldn’t miss as they kicked seven straight goals for the quarter to lead by 27 points at the first change. St George mentor Terry Mudge ripped into his charges at the first break, but there was to be no quick way back into this contest. The Eagles had been on fire, and it took the second quarter for the Dragons to stem the tide of possession that had been flowing so steadily East Coast’s way in the first term. The Dragons won the quarter by three goals to two, but there was still a 22-point margin in favour of the Eagles at the long break.
But when the teams returned from the rooms for the second half, one might have been forgiven for wondering if the teams had swapped jumpers during the break. Gone was the Eagles’ run that had so dominated the opening term and they found themselves hassled out of every contest by the relentless drive of the Dragons. The Eagles were unable to record a score for the quarter. But at the other end, unlike the Eagles’ dominant quarter in the first, the Dragons’ goal-kicking radar wasn’t giving them reward for effort. A return of 2.5 for the quarter had cut the margin to five buy real provigil points, but momentum was running the Dragons’ way.
The three quarter time break gave the Eagles a chance to steady, but the last quarter would be a desperate battle of wills between two determined sides. The Eagles managed one goal and the Dragons got it back. For much of the final term the ball was camped in the Dragons’ attacking zone. Spurred on by a vocal crowd, the Eagles were holding on for dear life as St George threw everything at them, searching for the winner. Time was ticking down and repeatedly the Eagle defenders were putting themselves on the line to intercept, clear, tackle and deny the Dragons a score from any of the numerous chances they would create.
Finally the siren sounded. The Eagles had defended grimly and managed to hold the Dragons out. But not without having had an amazing fight. In the end, the good start and getting the score on the board early would be the difference. On the ladder, both teams now have four wins from five matches with only St George’s superior percentage separating them on the ladder.
Andrew Browning, Dean Costello and Damien Charleston had been East Coast’s best; while the Dragons had excellent service all day from Xavier Stevenson, Tim Coenen and Blake Guthrie. It had been quite a game and if those sides play again when we get to the finals, everyone will be hoping that contest is as good as what happened on Saturday.
East Coast Eagles 7.0 9.3 9.3 10.6 (66)
St George 2.3 5.5 7.10 8.13 (61)
East Coast – D Costello 2, S Pierce 2, J Dimery, J Battistella, A McConnell, D Charleston, C Arndt, M Eastman.
St George – N Kenny 2, D Cooper 2, X Stevenson 2, B Jones, K Merson.
East Coast – A Browning, D Costello, D Charleston, K Emery, B Bourke, J Dimery.
St George – X Stevenson, T Coenen, B Guthrie, K Merson, T Martin, N Ryan.
At Olds Park, Saturday 30th April 2016
ROUND 6 v UTS
We’re a third of the way through the home and away season, and there’s a logjam of teams at the top of the ladder. There are no undefeated teams, four teams have only lost once and two of those teams were not in last year’s finals. Defending champions Pennant Hills hang on to fifth spot, but Manly are ready to pounce after a slow start. All of the Premier Division matches were played on Saturday afternoon, amid a backdrop of smoke from back-burning operations. With no wind to speak of for much of the day, visibility was affected before it became cold and dark earlier than normal for this time of year. UTS are the other big improver this season. The Bats suffered their first loss of the year, but not before they gave East Coast Eagles a massive fright at Kanebridge Oval.
The lead changed several times in an entertaining first quarter, as two of the competition’s form teams searched for the edge they had over the other, but neither was able to establish themselves as a dominant force. The quarter finished with the Bats kicking four goals to three and leading by five points at the first change.
The Eagles found themselves under pressure, as the Bats lifted their work rate in the second term. The UTS side were putting themselves on the line and preventing the Eagles from getting the run and easy possessions they love so much. A keenly-fought and sometimes physical second term saw the Bats score three goals to two, opening up a nine-point lead at the long break.
For the home side, they knew they had a fight on their hands. But when they emerged from the rooms for the second half, they came out firing. Players who had been well held in the first half began to emerge from their shells to make a bigger contribution to the Eagle cause. But the scoreboard stubbornly refused to move, as some missed shots made the Eagle comeback harder than it should have been. But the weight of possession eventually took its toll, with three goals to two and the UTS lead was cut to one point at the last change.
The tide had turned, and the Eagles had seized the momentum. Taking the lead early in the last quarter, they would not be stopped. It wasn’t high scoring, just three goals to one, but the Eagles had the ball under control and there was no way back for the Bats. It had been an impressive start to the season to have been undefeated until now, but the unbeaten run ended here as the Eagles had done enough to record a 14-point win.
Andrew Browning, Rowan Bilkey and Stuart Turner were ball magnets for the Eagles, spearheading their second-half comeback. The Bats received solid service all afternoon from Brad Hunt, Anthony Herring and Thomas Perks. Both sides have only lost one game this season, and are well placed to be there at the business end of the season; and if they were to meet in the finals, it could well be a hard-fought battle like this match.
East Coast Eagles 3.4 5.8 8.12 11.15 (81)
University of Technology 4.3 7.5 9.7 10.7 (67)
East Coast – R Bilkey 3, J Battistella 2, Z Johns 2, D Costello, M Skuse, S Turner, A McConnell.
UTS – S Tregoning 2, D Breese 2, S Dadswell 2, T Larby 2, P Brennan, B Nethersole.
East Coast – A Browning, R Bilkey, S Turner, A McConnell, J Dimery, Jon Vlatko.
UTS – B Hunt, A Herring, T Perks, S Tregoning, R Bates, S Dadswell.
At Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 7th May 2016.
ROUND 7 v WESTERN SUBURBS
After seven rounds, the ladder is beginning to take shape, but there’s some tight battles for positions still to be played out. In the last couple of years, by this stage of the season it was already clear who the final five would be. But this year that’s still far from settled.
St George and East Coast are the front-runners and have already racked up six wins from seven games, but neither have had a bye yet. They’re followed by North Shore and UTS, teams that were not in finals calculations last year, with four wins from six games. Recent premiers Pennant Hills and Manly are a game behind with three wins from six; two games clear of seventh spot. All Premier Division games this week were played on Saturday afternoon, in a day of glorious sunshine and exceptionally warm conditions for this time of year, with the mercury climbing into the high 20’s. And with little rain having fallen recently, all grounds were in good condition.
East Coast Eagles remain in second place, like St George they have six wins from seven games. And the Eagles made significant progress towards bridging the gap in percentage as they dominated Wests from start to finish to complete a 165 point win at Kanebridge Oval.
From the start, it was clear that the Eagles would be a dominant force. This was one of the competition’s top fancies at home and they’d come to play. Loose men were everywhere and there were no shortage of targets presenting themselves up forward. Incursions into the Magpies’ forward line were rare, but the Eagles in most occasions had little difficulty in clearing the ball out of trouble. Five goals to one in the first quarter set up a 26-point lead at quarter time, but there were already signs that this game was heading for a blowout.
The Magpies were unable to do anything to hold back the Eagle tide in the second term and the goal umpire at the Wests’ forward line had nothing to do but wave the flags after scores at the other end. And there were plenty of them, as the Eagles fired the ball up forward with regularity. The shots weren’t always accurate and the margin could have been even bigger, but so strong were the Eagles that six unanswered goals saw them go into the rooms at half time with a 69-point lead.
If the floodgates weren’t already open in the first half, they certainly were in the third quarter. Time and again the Eagles were controlling the ball at will, finding unmarked players to run the ball forward and there were no shortage of forwards to share the goal scoring around against minimal resistance. It was a horrible quarter for the Magpies and although they managed to get one goal, the Eagles surged forward time and again to finish with nine for the quarter and the lead was out to 123 points at three quarter time.
There would be no respite for the Magpies in the final quarter and there was nothing they were able to salvage from the contest. They would be unable to score a goal in the last quarter. With the sting well and truly gone from the contest and players cramping after such a hot day, the goal-scoring slowed slightly with the Eagles scoring six goals in the final term. But throughout the day it had been an emphatic statement by the Eagles. A top team playing their top football and never allowing their opponents into the contest in any way.
The final winning margin was 165 points, a substantial percentage boost for the Eagles. Andrew McConnell finished with six goals and Matthew Eastman four who together with Jack Dimery, were the Eagles’ best. But it was hard to find an Eagle who didn’t fulfill their role magnificently on the day. Timothy Woods, Pat Wilmot and Ben Zoppo tried hard for the Magpies, but it was a disappointing day for them. At times this season the Magpies have put in competitive performances, but this game was one they would want to put past them and move on.
East Coast Eagles 5.4 11.11 20.18 26.25 (181)
Western Suburbs 1.2 1.2 2.3 2.4 (16)
East Coast – A McConnell 6, M Eastman 4, S Pierce 3, D Costello 2, J Dimery 2, E Kruger 2, R Bilkey 2, K Emery, Z Johns, D Charleston, B Anderson, M Skuse.
Wests – B Zoppo, S Pearson.
East Coast – A McConnell, M Eastman, J Dimery, K Emery, D Costello, T Baker.
Wests – T Woods, P Wilmot, B Zoppo, T Lambert, C Gordon, M Brown.
At Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 14th May 2016
|Current Ladder after the completion of Round 7|
|1||St George Dragons||
|2||East Coast Eagles||
|3||North Shore Bombers||
|5||Pennant Hills Demons||
|6||Manly Warringah Giants||
|8||UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs||