Under 14s show their finals class
THE mighty under 14 Eaglets travelled to the Wangaratta Rovers home ground on Sunday to take on the Myrtleford Saints in the qualifying final.
Fresh from a win in the final round against the Saints, the boys rightly entered the game confident.
In what was a hotly contested game in the first half, it was the Saints who had the better of the Mansfield boys.
With some inaccurate kicking from the Eagles, they went into the main break 13 points down, with some injury concerns also weighing heavily on the group.
Despite those concerns, it was a fleet of first year players that could hold their heads high.
Jack Cross was given the opportunity to gallop around the wing with fellow young gun Colby CroxfordDemasi, and the pair of them did everything they could before the main break.
Harry Mahoney and Sammy Thomson were in and under and threatening, while the work horse Nick Watson was battling his heart out against older and bigger opposition.
Pat Mahoney was holding firm yet again in the back line, and without Bull Smith nearby, he took on the task of playing on the Saints’ premier forward.
With his opponent racking up 50 goals this year, ‘P-Mah’ got himself on top early with his trademark dash from defence which left his opponent flat footed.
Isaac Murray was fighting hard in the defence, as was the unwell Paddy ‘G Train’ Griffiths, who almost didn’t take the field due to illness.
The midfield was showing fight and class with the likes of Joel Sandford and Blake Azzopardi using the ball beautifully to keep the boys within reach.
The defensive running was a real highlight from these two lads, and it spoke volumes of their character which was to be called on in the second half.
After a re-shuffle of the board, and some words of encouragement, the boys took to the field in the third quarter full of belief that they were still well in the game.
With the Big Bull Pat Smith finding something to overcome his injury to re-join his team, the boys really straightened up and looked like the Eaglets we have come to know.
This is when the game took a dramatic turn, as the boys blew the game apart with a five goal to nothing third term.
While several players lifted, none stood out more than Sammy Thomson.
Spending more time in the forward line, he was everywhere and clean as a whistle by hand and foot, to slam home four goals for the quarter.
Given the size of the opponents around him, it was a great display of determination to out-play them continuously, especially when he is a first year player.
While the small brigade was doing the damage on the scoreboard, Gus Murray responded in the second half with some hard bruising work that opened play up for his team mates, also grabbing a goal himself.
And speaking of big fellas, Paddy Smith was back to his best in the final half.
Breaking open packs, he freed up Pat Mahoney to run and open up the opposition through the middle, and ‘blow up’ his opponent in the process.
Justin Sargent continued his emergence in an eye-catching game in which he displayed great dash, and also an ability to read the play.
Justin was super important in the second half, and despite leaving the ground mid-way through the final term, posted a real team lifter in the last.
Watson continued his emergence with a dominant game all over the ground, and in doing so, ran his opposition ruckman off his feet.
And with Sandford, Azzopardi, Geordie McLennan, Demasi and Luke Murray getting right on top, the fight drained away from the Saints.
Despite giving away a two goal lead at half time, the boys held them goalless in the second half to run away 48 point winners for the second consecutive week, and sets up a tantalising clash against the Benalla Giants.
After going down twice during the season by three and eight points respectively, the boys will be confident they can get one back against them to secure a grand final berth.
The game will be played at Wangaratta on Sunday, with details still to be confirmed about time and ground.
Congratulations to the entire team on a terrific come from behind performance that illustrated just how much improvement this group has made during the year.
Ten weeks ago, the Saints beat Mansfield by 50 points, so the improvement among the team is significant to say the least. Bring on the Giants, and go Eagles. Mansfield 11-10-76 def Myrtleford Saints 3-10-28
Goal Kickers: S.Thomson 5, J.Sandford 2, J.Sargent, A.Murray, B.Azzopardi, P.Griffiths
Best Players: S.Thomson, N.Watson, J.Sandford, P.Mahoney, C.CroxfordDemasi, J.Cross