Round 10 wrap – rain can’t stop Cross Conference action!

Tough conditions at Ellem Oval for the clash between Grafton Tigers and Ballina Bombers.

A big week of wet weather wasn’t enough to stop C.ex Group Cross Conference matches going ahead, but did add a whole new dimension to the challenge!

Home teams won three of the four contests, with Ballina the only team to win on the road, meaning that the weekend’s honours went to the Northern Rivers League.

Port Macquarie Magpies were the shining light for North Coast teams, beating Lismore Swans to give themselves a big confidence boost and reignite their chances in 2017. This was a must win clash for the Magpies who have endured a tough season and they duly obliged by claiming a 23 point win.

It was a tough and close encounter throughout at Wayne Richards Park. The Magpies led all the way but weren’t able to get a decisive jump on the Lismore Swans until the last quarter.  Port held sway by 7 points, 1 point, and 8 points at the first three breaks, then came home with a 3 goal to 1 final quarter to ease away from the Swans.

Adam Mannes led the goal kicking with 3, and got good support from both Mitchell Williams and Jakob Gray who added 2 goals apiece. The unsung heroes for Port were the defensive unit who stood tall in the first half when Lismore had the ascendancy in terms of forward 50 entries, setting the platform to allow the midfield and forward lines to take control in the last quarter when the game was in the balance.

Port Macquarie Magpies 10.9.69 defeated Lismore Swans 6.10.46

At Pottsville Oval it was a clash between North Coast’s top team in the Sawtell Toormina Saints and the Northern River’s third placed team, the Tweed Coast Tigers. The Saints had twelve regular Seniors missing through work, injury, and family commitments which was always going to make the task much harder against a team playing on their own small ground that offered up significant home advantage.

Despite the obstacles in their way, the Saints rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job, using the breeze well in the first quarter to kick the first three goals of the match but the Tigers worked their way into the contest and went to the first break down by just 3 points.

Kicking with the breeze in the second quarter, the Tigers seized control of the midfield and went to the long break in front by 20 points. The Saints needed to wrestle back control and use the breeze in the third quarter if they were to stand any chance but Tweed Coast surged again and extended their lead to 47 points. The Tigers were never going to be headed from there and ran out winners by 77 points.

Key to the win for Tweed Coast was their greater contested possession and forward line pressure football. Sawtell don’t like being beaten in the clutches and it’s a sure bet this will be a focus on the training paddock this week.

One silver lining for the Saints was the return of Brandt Lee from a hamstring injury to lead the way with 3 goals.

Tweed Coast Tigers 18.9.117 defeated Sawtell Toormina Saints 6.4.40

Coffs Breakers pushed Byron Magpies as hard as any team has this season, but still came up short by 9 goals.

Conditions at Byron were extremely wet and slippery and this was clearly evidenced by the quarter time score of 8 points to 1 in favour of the Magpies. The second quarter is where Byron did the damage, kicking 6 goals to 0 to extend the lead to 36 points.

Breakers finally found their rhythm in the third quarter to open their goal kicking account. They posted 4 majors for the term against Byron’s 2 to rein the lead in to 25 points and give themselves an outside chance going into the last quarter. However Byron were able to find another gear, kicking 5 goals to 1 in the final term and finish comfortable 51 point victors.

An inability to convert chances by the Breakers was highlighted by having no multiple goal kickers on the day, with the team’s 5 goals coming from five different sources. Jacob Sincock stood tall both literally and figuratively, whilst Fraser Duryea, Matt Gleeson and Chris Frangos were strong contributors for the Breakers.

Byron Magpies 13.7.85 defeated Coffs Breakers 5.4.34

Grafton Tigers gave a good account of themselves and were in the physical contest throughout, but Ballina Bombers proved superior at creating and converting chances, resulting in a good win.

Conditions were poor at Ellem Oval, with small areas of surface water and heavy rain. By half time the fading natural light was hampering visibility and the floodlights had to be switched on.

With the Tigers on a poor run of form it would have been easy for them to look at the conditions and give up before the first ball was bounced but they were committed to the contest for the entirety of the match. The final scoreline didn’t do justice to the effort they put in, or to how close the contest was, especially in close.

Ballina’s ability to break the shackles and find open space was key to the win. Grafton were in the match at quarter time but, as the rain came down and the ball got more slippery, they struggled to be clean with their possessions and were unable to create clear cut scoring opportunities.

Luke Stanford was at his usual brilliant best for the Tigers, who were boosted by the return of Ethan Olsen. If Olsen’s knees hold up and he can string some games together he will be a big contributor for the Tigers and can ease some of the load carried by Stanford. Callum O’Loughlin was the Tigers only goal kicker.

Ballina Bombers 17.14.116 defeated Grafton Tigers 1.4.10

Next week’s fixtures sees Sawtell at home Grafton at Richardson Park, and the Breakers hosting Port at Coffs Coast Sport and Lesiure Park 1.