Jittery Swans held to draw in derby
Footy fans roared their support for Hedland’s two teams on Saturday night as they played out a thrilling draw in the North Pilbara Football League’s derby clash.
The underdog Port Hedland Rovers surprised their more fancied South Hedland Swans rivals by jumping out to an early lead in the first term.
Forced to chase all night, the Swans managed to level the scores only after big forward Steele Viti kicked truly from 20m minutes before the final siren to tie the game on 98 points apiece — Rovers 15.8 to Swans 14.14.
South Hedland coach Troy Melville said the game had been a hard-fought, seesawing contest.
“It was a hard game to read. At different points we looked on top and ready to take the game away and at other times the Rovers were well on top,” he said.
“It was good the boys rallied at the end to level it up.”
“A draw and two points is better than a loss and no points.”
The tied game continues what has been a jittery five weeks for the Swans, who have now dropped two games and tied one after earlier going through the opening eight rounds undefeated.
They now sit second on the ladder to the Wickham Wolves.
While disappointed not to win, the Rovers can take took confidence from matching it with their leading NPFL foes.
Earlier, Rovers coach Greg Mastrangelo completed a coaching master stroke by opening the game with Brad Horsman deep in the forward line.
Proving a mismatch for his Swans opponents, Horsman was in everything early, pulling down spectacular marks and even snapping a goal on his wrong foot, as he ended the first quarter with four majors.
It helped inspire the Rovers to a 6.1 (37) to the Swans 4.3 (27) first term lead.
The pattern continued into the second quarter as the Rovers were able to take greater advantage of their forward-50 forays to maintain their 10-point advantage at half-time.
With defensive generals Josh Nannup and Kurtis Geary helping to regroup the Swans back line, the third quarter proved an arm wrestle. With the Rovers struggling to hit the scoreboard, their South Hedland rivals closed to within three points.
In a desperate last quarter, the Rovers once again kicked away to a handy lead as midfielder Michael Lakeman kept getting his hands on the ball in his 100th game.
However, Swans fought back, culminating with Viti’s thrilling equaliser minutes before the siren.
Viti proved a forward focal point all day for the Swans, booting five goals, while Melville praised fellow forward and ruckman Malcolm Anderson for kicking three and trying hard all day.
Melville also gave Luke Rafferty credit for his ability to fill in holes around the ground after the Swans lost key players to injury.
Horsman led the way early for the Rovers with four goals, while Lakeman and Michael Egan each booted three.
In the reserves, the Rovers ran out 13.7 (85) to 8.7 (55) winners.
A rampaging Brad Horsman takes a strong mark for Rovers.
Swans defenders clear the ball.
Swans pile on Brad Horsman.