Hampton Rovers were given a scare but managed to grind out a 32-point win over Oakleigh Krushers at Scammell Reserve on Saturday to remain the only undefeated team in division one.
With a number of players out due to injury, it was a weakened Rovers line-up that took the field in the round seven clash, up against a side always hard to defeat on their home desk, especially with the sections leading goal kicker firing.
Oakleigh started strong and kicked the opening the goal of the game within a minute, before the Rovers found their rhythm, with marks and resulting goals to Jess Donald and Christian Carnovale to put Hampton in front.
Cam Hetherington was showing great desperation with a number of second and third efforts which led to turnovers which the Rovers boys capitalized on and when Speedy marked 25 out, turned on the after burners to sprint into the open goal, Hampton were a couple of goals up and you could feel the momentum building. It did, another goal to the skipper, Tim Jones snapped truly and right on the siren, Nick Murnane’s bullet pass to Hetherington gave the Rovers a three goal buffer at the first break. Nick, back in the seniors for his first game since Ivanhoe, impressed with his desperate play, speed and long accurate kicking. James Prosser, playing on one of the Oakleigh’s guns, had kept him touchless, Ben Traeger-Haig was having a good battle with the division leading goalkicker Cloke and Harry Crisp was increasing in confidence as the game progressed. Shem Curry was playing his usual bullocking game broken up with a couple of fine marks when under pressure.
At the first break, coach Anthony Quon reinforced his mantra of pressure, fast ball movement and work rate. The team responded. The backs became more miserly, with Crispy and Ben Kneebush playing close to their opponents, Josh Pavlou playing his usual physical style of play, the Oakleigh boys just couldn’t get inside 50. Lachy Cairns kicked a classy goal on the run, Speedy kicked a couple of majors, both from the square, Corey Jones took a good mark and goaled and suddenly the Rovers were seven goals up and cruising. Oakleigh’s only goal for the quarter was a gift from a free-kick, and the Rovers held a comfortable lead.
Corey Jones kicked the opening goal of the third term within a minute and it looked like the Rovers domination would continue, however the wheels then fell off. The home side kicked seven of the next nine goals to go in at three-quarter time just 16 points down. It was a worrying quarter in that the ease in with which Oakleigh scored at some stages made it look like circuit work. The Rovers mids went missing and the backs were time and time again found metres behind their opponents as they marked on the lead. It was quality play suggesting the opposition is better than their current seventh position on the ladder.
Hampton were winning in the ruck, with Benji Audige in for his first senior appearance of the season, showing a leap bigger than Josh Broadley, and consistently winning the tap. However, the tap outs weren’t taken advantage of and the Rovers were being smashed in the centre clearances.
— Hampton Rovers FC (@HRAFC) May 19, 2018
At the final break, the coach was calm, follow the rules and play to the plan the boys had all year and they will break the opposition. When the Krushers kicked the first two goals of the quarter, the margin was reduced to just four points and were playing all over the Rovers and most of the travelling fans were starting to panic! When play stopped due to an injury to the opposition at the 10 minute mark, the Rovers players had time to regroup and whatever was said worked. The backs shut the Oakleigh forwards out, the mids were more desperate and the goals started to flow. In fact, that was the end of scoring for Oakleigh as Hampton kicked the final four of the game to run out comfortable 32 point winners. Clemo ran into the open goal, Carney’s bullet pass to Cam Hetherington was rewarded with a goal, Ant Folino converted a hard earned free for a goal from the boundary line and right on the final siren, Rich Atkins claimed the pass from Jess Donald to run into the open goal.
With Ormond’s defeat, Hampton is now the only undefeated team in the section – one game and healthy percentage on top of the table. Next week it’s a home game against the in-form Preston Bullants who knocked off Ormond on Saturday in what promises to be a tough match. Then it’s Ormond, also at home, to round out the first half of the year. Two tough matches to show where the Rovers are at. A plethora of players were unavailable on Saturday who will be pressing for selection in the next couple of weeks, including the likes of Danny Corp, Mat Care, Oscar Roberts, Kyle Pinto, Mat Rienerts and Luke Deville who will all be putting up their hands for a spot so competition will be strong.
HAMPTON ROVERS 6.2 10.5 13.7 17.12 (114)
OAKLEIGH 3.1 4.1 11.3 13.4 (82)
Goal Kickers: J. McPherson 3, C. Carnovale 3, C. Hetherington 3, C. Jones 2, J. Donald, A. Folino, L. Cairns, T. Jones, S. Clements, R. Atkins
Best Players: C. Hetherington, B. Traeger-Haig, J. Prosser, H. Crisp, B. Audige, N. Murnane
In the early game, the Reserves had a super second half to run out big 78-point victors. Nick Jackson starred with seven goals as the Rovers remain undefeated.
The Thirds were comfortable winners against Chadstone at Boss James Reserve, rising to third spot on the ladder. The U19s were defeated by Ormond. At Brighton Beach Oval, the Senior Women went down to Old Brighton, but were the first team to score against them in the past three weeks. Reports to follow.