VIC Metro has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the dying minutes to remain undefeated in the National AFL Under 18 Championships. Heading into the carnival as one of the favourites, Metro did not have it all their own way, forced to battle to a win against a gallant Allies side that would rue their inaccuracy in the second term.
Metro led by three points at quarter time before the Allies took control of the game in general play, but could not put it on the scoreboard. While the visitors booted 2.1 from three scoring shots, the Allies booted 0.9 in what could have set the game up for them heading into the main break. Instead they found themselves down by seven points at the main break. They responded in the third term booting three of the quarter’s four goals to take a six-point lead with a quarter to play and looked like causing a boil-over. A low-scoring final term saw neither side kick a major until a pin-point pass from Metro captain Xavier O’Halloran found key position forward and potential number one pick Ben King inside 50. He nailed the set shot and put Metro in front – delivering them an all-important victory.
Despite nailing the last shot of the day, King was well held by Murray Bushrangers and Allies defender Jacob Koschitzke, restricting the talented big man to seven disposals and four marks. Koschitzke had nine disposals and two marks himself. Through the midfield, it was Sandringham Dragons’ skipper Bailey Smith and inside midfielder Rhylee West who again got the job done, the most prolific of the midfielders in the navy blue and white. Smith had 26 disposals, three marks, three clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, while West had 28 disposals, five marks, two tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds.
Western Jets’ mid/forward Zak Butters was also among Metro’s best, booting a goal and notching up 19 disposals and four marks, as well as pumping the ball inside 50 five times. Noah Answerth had 17 disposals and three rebounds, while O’Halloran had a game-high seven inside 50s, including the crucial one to King. Others named among Metro’s best were defenders Buku Khamis and Isaac Quaynor who had a combined nine rebounds, while Jets’ mid/defender Daly Andrews was good in transition with six inside 50s and three rebounds. Up forward, bottom-ager Dylan Williams was dominant in the first half, booting four goals, and finishing with 12 disposals and six marks.
The Allies would be disappointed with the loss, but also buoyed by their ability to match it with one of the title contenders for four quarters, and indeed, might have won with greater accuracy in the second term. Midfielder Fraser Turner was named the home side’s best, racking up a team-high 25 disposals, nine marks, three inside 50s and four rebounds. Bailey Scott and bottom-ager Mitch O’Neill shared 19 disposals each, and combined for 11 marks and eight clearances. Top talent Tarryn Thomas had 18 disposals, five marks, six tackles, five inside 50s and four rebounds in an improved performance from the first week, while other potential top 10 pick Nick Blakey was better for the run with seven disposals, three marks, four inside 50s and a goal roaming up the ground at times.
Keidean Coleman provided run and carry out of defence, racking up 14 disposals, four marks, three tackles and six rebounds for the losers, while Nick Baker had 11 disposals, three marks and two rebounds. Murray Bushrangers’ mid/forward Mathew Walker was named in the best in his first game in the series for the Allies, booting a goal and notching up 10 disposals, six marks and laying six tackles. Potential top 30 pick Chayce Jones was again solid, racking up 17 disposals, three marks, eight tackles and three inside 50s, while key defender Dirk Koenen played his best game for the Allies, with 17 disposals, five marks and four rebounds.
The Allies will lick their wounds and have a week off before the big week in Melbourne for their final two clashes against South Australia and Western Australia. Vic Metro face off against Vic Country at the MCG next Sunday in a standalone game for Round 3 of the National Under 18s Championships, before a bye and then concluding the series against South Australia at Etihad Stadium in which could well decide the National Under 18 Championships title.
VIC METRO 3.4 5.5 6.5 7.10 (52)
ALLIES 3.1 3.10 6.11 6.14 (50)
Vic Metro: Williams 4, Butters, Taylor, King
Allies: T.Green 2, McFadyen, Blakey, Walker, O’Neill
Vic Metro: Smith, West, Butters, Answerth, Khamis, Williams
Allies: Turner, Koschitzke, Scott, Coleman, Walker, Baker