Clinical North gets one over West

The West and North Gambier contest at Malseed Park was billed as the match of the seventh round of Western Border football, but the Tigers used it as an opportunity to exhibit their improvement.

After the Roos stunned the yellow and black by two points earlier in the season, many thought the rematch would be just as special as the third and fourth placed teams faced off again.

But North had revenge at the front of mind and made a statement from the opening bounce.

It only took two minutes for veteran Justin McConnell to put the Tigers on the board and the visitors were away.

By quarter time the scoreboard read 3.2 to 0.4 which forced the Roos to play catchup for the remainder of the day.

Sam Stafford and Toby de Wit fed off each other in the North forward line, while Brett Shepherdson and Hamish Telford were making some big plays.

Telford boosted the Tigers’ lead to beyond four goals with a soccer in front of the goal umpire’s nose, but Ben Papps then put West on the board with a silky left-foot finish in a dramatic opening to the second term.

Scoring slowed as the main break approached, but then North launched another assault when play resumed to effectively secure the game.

The Roos backline struggled to contain Stafford’s penetrative boot from the 50-metre arch as the Tigers kicked four big goals to build a comfortable 31-point lead by three-quarter time.

Under the setting sun West managed to regain some momentum with a couple of late goals, but it was too little, too late.

Despite returning to full strength with Daron McElroy’s comeback from Covid and the gritty efforts from young guns Tom Nieuwerkerk and Mitchell Cornolo, the Roos were their own worst enemy creating more scoring shots than their rivals, but missed 13 of them.

This meant North Gambier coach Ben Hardy never felt threatened and he said this was a by-product of his team’s pressure on the home team.

“I just felt like we had a really good week of preparation and understood what the game meant for our season, so we had a big emphasis on settling the score from last time,” he said.

“The boys were really switched on from the get-go which was pleasing to see.

“I always felt we were in control of the game and the way the scoreboard looked was a result of our pressure.

“They ended up having a lot of wide shots and snaps at goal because of our pressure and this was something we talked about during the week because West is a strong, contested and in and under side.

“I felt like it was the best we have moved the ball in terms of our structure and setup and we were able to respond to everything.

“We went in with a smaller forward line and having Toby de Wit back gave us some aerial x factor, but guys like Sam Egan and Cam Ortlepp locked the ball in our forward 50.

“Justin McConnell was best on ground through the midfield and half back and Brett Shepherdson’s halfback play was outstanding.”

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