It’s taken eight rounds, but the Hampton Rovers have tasted defeat for the first time in 2018, going down to Preston Bullants by 11 points at Boss James Reserve on Saturday.
From the first bounce, Preston seemed to be quicker, harder and more accurate than the wayward Rovers who just couldn’t seem to get the engine firing. The first half was undoubtedly the Rovers worst for the year and how Preston were only 35 points up was remarkable. It was clear that losing Luke Deville last week and then Rich Atkins and Ben Traeger-Haig this week did affect the balance and while injuries are no excuse, to lose half of the back six in a week does put the pressure on.
Preston worked hard in that first half and really a 35-point margin was not a true reflection of their domination, yet, at the same time, it showed that the Rovers could under pressure withstand the storm and effectively make the game not the foregone conclusion it could have been. Another, unfortunate injury, Zach Donald, with mouthguard in place copped a big whack that loosened a couple of teeth and wrecked a couple more to lead to a sad end of the day for him.
Great to see a couple of players reach milestones on Saturday, Shem Curry played his 100th VAFA game and Ben Kneebush notched up his 50th. Well done boys!
In the first half, Sam Clements was very effective at CHB and late in the game when moved to full forward had impact despite being another victim of poor ball use. Harry Crisp, while taking a heavy knock early, was effective all day, whatever the position he was playing.
The Rovers certainly missed Rich Atkins and Ben Tragear-Haig down back where their coolness under pressure was always a major hurdle for opposition forwards.
At the main break the coach was very critical of “ball use, work rate and their general lack of care for the footy”.
The second half was an improvement. Hampton reduced the 35-point half time lead to 22 at three quarter time and just 11 points at full time. In fact, in the second half, Hampton outscored Preston by four goals, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. While there was more scoreboard action, there weren’t many highlights, perhaps Duck’s goal from 50m or Ben Kneebush’s banana goal from behind the point line maybe remembered? Still, Preston were sitting in third place, had everything to play for and while they gave it their best shot they were still only a handful of goals up in a game they appeared to dominate.
The last quarter started with us 22 points down and the Rovers faithful had not given up hope. They didn’t believe their boys could put in such an average performance over the full four quarters, and they had finished games strongly more often than not. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as the Bullants held on for their sixth win of the season. In one of the shortest quarters for the year, the ball rarely went inside Preston’s half and the Rovers kicked 2.1 to 0.2 which wasn’t enough to bridge the gap.
It was a hard day to pick the best players but certainly Matt Rieniets in his first game back for a few weeks was prominent all day, Adam Schaeche, still carrying an ankle, was in and about all day and one of the few who seemed able to match the pace of the Bullants. Big Josh Pavlou put in another solid game as did Harry Crisp. Great to see Clemo impose himself on the game, down back in the first three quarters he was solid and when thrown forward in the last did his best, but again poor ball movement forward cruelled his chances.
Coach Anthony Quon summed it up after the game when he said “we just made the game harder than it had to be”.
This week, it’s a top of the table clash as the first-placed Rovers host second-placed Ormond in the biggest home game of the year at Boss James Reserve.
HAMPTON ROVERS 1.2 2.3 6.5 8.6 (54)
PRESTON BULLANTS 3.4 7.6 9.9 9.11 (65)
Goal Kickers: L. Cairns 2, C. Jones, C. Carnovale, B. Kneebush, A. Folino, C. Hetherington, J. Donald
Best Players: M. Rieniets, A. Schaeche, J. Pavlou, H. Crisp, S. Clements, J. Broadley
Wins by the Reserves and Thirds while the U19s and Women’s went down. Match reports to follow.
Also this coming Saturday night is the major whole-club function of the year – Rovers Gala 2018! This is the major fundraiser for the club this year so please support the Rovers and purchase your tickets now. View details & buy tickets >