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By Nick Creely

SOUTH EAST FOOTBALL NETBALL LEAGUE
REVIEW – ROUND 8
It was a game as fierce as the almost arctic conditions.
And in the end, it was Cranbourne who were just cleaner on the outside to upstage a plucky Beaconsfield side who never wavered in intensity, 10.6 (66) to 6.14 (50).
Many eyes were firmly focused on 987-goal champion Marc Holt, with recruit Mitchell Wallace given the dangerous task of quelling the perennial goal machine.
The Beaconsfield midfield were getting terrific first use by Scott Meyer, but fiddled around with the football by hand on the outside to eventually gift the opening goal of the match to Shaun Marusic, who instantly exerted an influence off half-back.
As pressure increased, star midfielder and Casey Demon jet Jimmy Munro was all class, producing plenty of searing runs to get the ball moving the right way.
With spearhead Nathan Langley up and about, the visitors suddenly surged out late in the first quarter, taking in a 10-point lead after slamming on three unanswered goals.
But the home side found their mojo eventually after Leigh McQuillen’s side squandered some chances on the other end, and a late flurry courtesy of superb work down the field by Marusic, Glenn Osborne, Ryan Jones and Luke Bee-Hugo gave dangerous forwards such as Nathan Gardiner, Tommy Marks and Nick Russo plenty of chances.
At half time, the home side shivered their way to the rooms with a 16-point advantage, with light drizzle giving them a major advantage.
Champion ruckman Michael Boland was a major casualty early in the third quarter, going down clutching his knee after getting his leg trapped underneath a teammate in a marking contest.
Despite holding firm in a tense, fierce final half that was perhaps reflected by the home side’s accuracy (3.3 to 2.9), O’Brien was proud of his side to adapt in a game that didn’t quite going for them.
“I don’t think we ever really got our game going, and credit to Beaconsfield for that – it was quite a contested game, so yeah, we had little patches where we opened them up and hit the scoreboard, and it was telling in the end,” he said.
That ability to hit the scoreboard when it mattered was reflected in the home side’s lacklustre third quarter, in which youngster Nick Russo kept Beaconsfield at bay with a gritty set shot from a tough angle to stretch the margin to 15-points deep in the quarter.
In a low scoring affair, it was arguably the most important moment of the match.
But O’Brien praised his midfield for battling through and exerting maximum pressure, and his defensive unit for its resolute effort in a tense final term.
“The midfield was even, if anything they might have won it in the end – once Boland went off injured, we battled hard, and probably weight of numbers took its toll in the second half,” he said.
“Scotty (Meyer) probably got on top, and they surged the ball forward a bit.
“(And) our backlines a real strength of ours, we have a lot of trust in our guys down there – but they need support, and a lot of that comes down to the pressure being applied down the field.
“If you don’t have that pressure, they will be exposed, and that’s an area we’ve been really good at it.”
In what turned into a hard fought loss, Jake Bowd, Munro, Meyer and Riley Welsh were outstanding for the visitors, while Nathan Langley and Taylor Joyce battled valiantly to kick five of the six goals against a sturdy defence.
For Cranbourne, Marusic relished the conditions, while the likes of Glenn Osborne, the versatile Troy Tharle and Nathan Gardiner all impacted the game.
The conditions – which were hard for players to adjust to – proved crucial in a low scoring contest, with the home side able to overcome some fierce wind.
Berwick, meanwhile, emerged from an almighty scrap with Officer to take the four points at Edwin Flack Reserve, 8.15 (63) to 2.6 (18).
After two consecutive losses – which is foreign territory for the reigning premiers – some sort of response was certainly necessary for Stewart Kemperman’s side.
The rain pelted down, and the Wickers were simply more physical at the contest, surging out to a 25-point quarter time lead, holding the Kangaroos goalless.
On a day where clean hands where a must, Madi Andrews had a superb opening term, combining nicely with a dangerous Bailey Asher early in the contest.
The Kangaroos were unable to hit the scoreboard in a meaningful way until the third term when the game was effectively over, with the Wickers’ incredible team defence finally being undone by a fifty metre penalty duly slotted by Harry Dean in the goal square.
Doug Koop’s side showed a bit of steel to register another goal by three quarter time, but were held scoreless in the final term as the home side surged home to boot a further three majors.
Finally back on the winners list, the Wickers were well served by Asher (two goals) and Brody Connelly (two), while Madi Andrews and Travis Tuck certainly relished the conditions at hand.
“Earlier in the year, we played Narre Warren in similar conditions, we didn’t adjust quickly, and it was good to take some learnings from that into the weekend,” Wickers coach Stewart Kemperman said.
Kemperman said it was important that his side could bounce back from two fadeout losses in recent weeks.
“Winning habits are good habits, and it’s important to get back into that winning circle,” he said.
“The losses have been interesting, we’ve had strong efforts in both games – in the Cranbourne game, we had a bad lapse, and against Narre our effort was tremendous.
“It was more the polish – we know our best footy is ahead of us, so we’re going to continue to work and hopefully it’ll all just come together.”
Down at Kalora Park, the undefeated Narre Warren not only brushed aside the weather, but kicked another 23 goals, in a testament to their belief.
Pakenham were nothing but gallant in their 23.15 (153) to 8.8 (56) loss, but were ultimately outclassed by a side at the top of their game.
Ash Green’s side were defensively solid as they have all season in the first term, conceding just the three goals while piling on two themselves to be holding an eight-point deficit at quarter time.
But a dominant second term saw the home side surge away to a 47-point lead, with Brad Scalzo, Michael Collins, Mitch Cox and Josh Tonna was all class as they kicked the ball forward into the hungry arms of Nick and Stew Scanlon, as well as Aaron Wilson, who warmed into the game with a towering presence.
The Lions – to their credit – managed to stem the bleeding briefly with a terrific 30-minutes in the third term, winning the quarter and showcasing some impressive efforts in the contest.
The Magpies’ overriding control over the contest continued on with a dominant final term, slamming through 10.5 to just 0.2, flexing their muscles when it mattered.
In the other match over the weekend, Tooradin-Dalmore were far too strong in a 7.9 (51) to 16.11 (107) win over Doveton at AJ Robinson Oval.

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