Pressure Builds at the Top
The final round of C.ex Group Cross Conference action had significant implications at the top of the AFL North Coast ladder.
Heading into the round Sawtell Toormina Saints and Coffs Breakers were tied at the top, with less than one percentage point separating the teams. Breakers five goal win over Lismore Swans and Sawtell Toormina Saints’ defeat at the hands of Byron Magpies sees the Breakers move one game clear at the top of the ladder. Whilst these two teams can’t be budged from the top two and the double chance come Finals time it does give the Breakers extra confidence ahead of the last regular season showdown between the two clubs in a fortnight’s time.
Both teams were at home where the rain made for scrappy, low-scoring affairs. The wet weather made ball handling challenging and scoring chances were at a premium as teams struggled to get any continuity.
Breakers started strongly against the Lismore Swans and held a healthy 15 point lead at the first break. They continued to have the better of the play through the second and third quarters but struggled to convert their chances. Breakers 1 goal 3 in the second term against the Swans 2 straight goals meant that the Lismore were able to reduce the deficit by half time.
A similar story in the third quarter saw Breakers post 1 goal 4 which only narrowly pipped the Swans one straight goal, leaving the three quarter time advantage at 16 points.
Breakers saved their best for last where a 3 goals to 2 term saw them ease to a 25 point win on a day when they were never really troubled.
Best players for the Breakers were Jacob Sincock, Liam Paige, Royce Close, and Luke Valdes. Brett Vella and Nicklaus Stanlan-Velt were the only players able to manage multiple goals for the home team with two apiece.
Coffs Breakers 8.15.63 defeated Lismore Swans 6.2.38
At Richardson Park, the quarter time score had Sawtell Toormina Saints and Byron Magpies locked together. A big second quarter for the home team saw them out to a 13 point lead and an upset was on the cards.
Byron really lifted their intensity in the third quarter and were able to hold the Saints scoreless whilst posting 4 goals 4 themselves to overturn the deficit and claim a 15 point lead at three quarter time.
Saints tried to respond in the final term but had no answers and could only muster a solitary behind. Byron kicked a further 5 goals to extend away to a comfortable 47 point victory.
Jed Ellis-Cluff managed two majors for the Saints to play a lone hand as a multiple goal kicker. Luke Matthews, Jim Angel, Lachlan Draper-Bell, and Dan Pritchard each managed one goal but it was a lack of ability to win the ball in the middle and create chances for the forward line that ultimately cost the Saints.
Byron Magpies 12.14.86 defeated Sawtell Toormina Saints 6.3.39
In the battle of the Tigers at Pottsville, Tweed Coast opened their new ground in style with a big win over Grafton. This match was done and dusted by half time with Tweed Coast having kicked 16 goals to Grafton’s 1 meaning that they already held a 101 point advantage.
Grafton were never going to be able to come back from that position and it was always going to be a question of how big the final margin was. Tweed Coast couldn’t quite manage the same degree of scoring effort in the second half, posting 13 goals against Grafton’s 1. The only positive on the day for the Grafton Tigers was keeping the losing margin under 200 points.
Fresh from their standout performances in last week’s rep fixture, Luke Stanford and Sam Hardes performed strongly, kicking Grafton’s only two goals of the game.
Tweed Coast Tigers 29.28.202 defeated Grafton Tigers 2.1.13
Next week’s fixtures sees the Breakers at home to Grafton, whilst Sawtell travel south to play Port Magpies.