Vic Metro 3.3 5.5 8.6 10.8 (68)
Vic Country 2.2 6.5 9.7 11.7 (73)
Vic Metro goals: Gresham 2, Hardwick 2, Kerbatieh, Balic, Houston, Crocker, Parsons, Silvagni.
Vic Country goals: Ainsworth 2, Schache 2, Berry 2, Maishman, Cole, Holmes, Simpkin, Skinner.
Vic Metro best: Balic, Crocker, Collins, O’Kearney, Parsons, Gresham
Vic Country best: Ainsworth, Weitering, Mennen, Mathieson, Rice, Schache
Vic Country stole its first win of the Under 18s Championships with a kick after the siren to Murray Bushrangers’ Jy Simpkin, defeating Vic Metro by five points at Simonds Stadium.
Going into the match, Vic Country were predicted to be comfortable winners with AIS stars down back in Jacob Weitering and Kieran Collins, through the midfield in Tom Cole, Darcy Parish and Rhys Mathieson and up forward with Joshua Schache, but it was Vic Metro who almost had the last laugh when they led by a point with 30 seconds remaining.
There was a ball up at half forward for Vic Metro, with victory seemingly in sight. Hold it up at the next contest and the game is over. It seemed like a simple task. While for Vic Country, every possession would count, one missed kick and it was over.
Gippsland defender Christin Buykx-Smith combined with number one draft pick hopeful Weitering to bring the ball up the wing.
Unsurprisingly, Schache used his strength to crash the forward 50 pack and talented Gippsland youngster Ben Ainsworth had the football nous to snap it onto his boot where Simpkin had found space running back to goal against Eastern Ranges’ Jordan Gallucci.
Simpkin took his time with precious seconds remaining, confident he could salute from about 20 metres out straight in front, which he did after the siren.
Vic Country players ran in from everywhere to celebrate with Simpkin as they had survived an almighty scare.
The game itself had been somewhat of a momentum changer, with with Vic Metro leading by seven points at the first break, before a four goal to two second quarter saw the lead flipped in favour of the Country boys.
They increased the margin by a solitary point at three quarter time to seven points, setting up an exciting last quarter.
Sandringham’s Harry Balic rose to the occasion with 27 disposals and a goal, one of his best performances of the year.
Nick O’Kearney, Ben Crocker and Jade Gresham also collected plenty of the football for Vic Metro, while all the top prospects were exciting for Vic Country.
Weitering, Schache and Ainsworth – who is not available to be drafted until next year – were impressive along with over-ager David Mennen and St Kilda/Carlton potential father-son Bailey Rice.
In the next round, Vic Metro take on South Australia, while Vic Country take on surprise winners Western Australia. Both Victorian sides will play away before returning to Simonds Stadium in the following round.