Hampton Rovers scored a thrilling win over Ajax in the 2005 season opener at Boss James Reserve on Saturday. The Rovers got across the line by a mere four points in a match that at one stage looked to be slipping away.
Right from the opening bounce, Ajax were fast, attacking and hard at the ball. The visitors played with flair and ran in numbers. It was a strategy that clearly unsettled the Rovers who went into the game with quiet confidence after a rigorous and successful pre-season.
At the main break Ajax led by a goal – 4.9.33 to 4.3.27 – but the margin would have been much greater had it not been for the visitors inaccurate kicking. In the second quarter Ajax had eight scoring shots to the green and golds three. Rovers big man Anton Duddy had a stellar opening half and his efforts whether up back or in the ruck were important in the home team being so close at half time.
While Ajaxs runners had caused havoc in the first half, in the second half the Rovers talls began to exert their dominance. Led by Sam Parkinson – playing his first game back after a few years overseas, ex Sandringham captain Heath Tregear, Michael (Chief) Fletcher and Nick Greenwood, the Rovers gradually wore down the visitors. The pre-season training was paying dividends for the fitter and stronger Rovers.
In a setback for the Rovers, James Hanlon suffered a major injury during a clash with an Ajax opponent during the third quarter. James broke his leg and will miss up to 12 months. The Rovers will certainly miss his strong marking, agility and goal kicking.
At the final break, the Rovers were a point up, and not for the first time in recent years, another intriguing battle loomed between the two clubs. The teams went goal for goal in the fourth quarter, and when Ajax goaled with less than two minutes to go, the game was well and truly alive. But the Rovers prevailed to run out victorious 11.12.78 to 10.14.74.
Rovers best players were; Duddy, Parkinson, Fletcher, Tregear, Woods and Blanchard. Goal kickers were; Fletcher, Pinto and Greenwood all 2 a piece, with singles to Hanlon, Blanchard, Lawrence, Cannell and Duddy.
Rovers coach Brett McIlwraith said after the game ?It was a gutsy win. I?m more than happy to have the four points. But we can improve on today and I know we will. The good performance of our many younger players who are first year out of under 19s was a real positive.?
In a replay of last years Grand Final, the Rovers reserves accounted for Ajax 6.10.46 to 3.12.30. In a low-scoring scrappy game, best for the Rovers were Christiansen, Gray, McCallum, Kezilas and Davis while there were 6 individual goal kickers.
While the Rovers Under 19s under newly appointed and past premiership-winning coach Dale Ross lost a thriller to Mazenod, 16.14.110 to 16.15.111. Best players were White, Suleyman and Hendry. White lead the way on the goal front with 6, while Mitchell kicked 4 and Fallon 3.
Next week the Rovers are on the road to play newly promoted Banyule. All Rovers supporters are urged to make the trek and support the team. The Under 19s are at home against Old Haileybury.