South Australia take out the U18 AFL National Championships title

A devastating first quarter from top-five draft prospect Izak Rankine saw South Australia storm towards the Under-18 AFL National Championship title. The Croweaters had to hold off a fast finishing Victoria Metro side whose deplorable start to the match severely wrecked their chances. But South Australia’s mesmerising first half start blew Vic Metro away with a nine goal to two half.

This start was the game changer as Rankine took the match away from Vic Metro contributing three goals and put on an incredible show for the patrons at Etihad Stadium. South Australia’s start of the match was potentially the best start of the championships as SA attacked at will from their early clearances, as Vic Metro’s onball brigade were given an armchair ride. Star forward/midfielder Rankine opened his account by kicking a wonderful volley goal in the middle of a forward 50m stoppage to give SA the first of the game.

SA’s attack was relentless after Oscar Chapman hunted down a Vic Metro defender attempting to rebound from his defensive 50 and quickly got it onto the boot to Hugo Munn who took a fantastic park mark. Munn converted his first and was given another terrific delivery into the forward line which saw him out mark Vic Metro defender James Blanck with ease and strength. With only Munn and Blanck in the goal square, Rankine stormed past to receive the handball and kick his second of game.

Vic Metro started to get some forward entries but butchered their kicks as the SA defenders were intercepting with ease. Rhylee West was starting to get some critical clearances for his side. But Vic Metro couldn’t stop the bleeding, Rankine then kicked a stunning snap goal from the boundary line to bring up his third goal of the day as Metro could not stop his influence. Rankine was single-handily taking control of the match as he then took a screamer up forward. Rankine had two more set-shots for the quarter but couldn’t convert both as he had the chance to end the quarter with five goals to his name, SA led by 26 points and kept Metro goalless.

The South Australia juggernaut had no signs of stopping any time soon, as Connor Rozee kicked a great soccer goal to start the second quarter. Vic Metro finally got on the board as a long kick from Ben Silvagni found Ben King who converted for his side’s first of the game. SA then made the most of the forward 50m entries, as Jack Lukosius kicked a great goal of ground level as Kade Chandler and Ben Jarvis continued the rout. Vic Metro tried their best to cut the margin but kept missing gettable chances Riley Collier-Dawkins took a great mark inside 50 but couldn’t convert, South Australia led by seven goals at the main break.

But South Australia’s comfortable 43-point margin at half-time was incredibly in danger as Vic Metro booted the next five goals of the match to close to within 11 points halfway through the third quarter. King led the charge up front, as Curtis Taylor and under-age forward Jack Mahony kicked crucial goals for Metro. Underage midfielder Matt Rowell started finding tons of space and his pin-point kicking was finding targets in the forward 50, James Rendell was sent forward and was causing the SA defence problems as he kicked a goal. South Australia needed a response as Vic Metro were looking unstoppable and had plenty of time to catch up and get the in front of the game.

Angus Hanrahan had the opportunity for Vic Metro to get within a goal after a brilliant rundown tackle on Mihail Lochowiak in the forward pocket but failed to score the goal. Lochowiak keen to make up for his error marked just inside 50 from Munn’s kick and intercept mark on the wing, Lochowiak kicked the long bomb and SA steadied the ship somewhat. Then it all started to fall apart for Metro as they breached the anti-density rule and SA captain Luke Valente kindly obliged from 25m directly in front to give South Australia that nerve settler.

South Australia coach Tony Bamford granted the wishes of the recruiters as he moved star forward Lukosius into defence to stop King’s dominance. Rankine quiet and barely seen in the third quarter nursing an ankle injury, came out firing in the final stanza as he kicked a great snap goal to get his fourth of the game. Rankine then followed up with his fifth as he burnt off the Metro defence to take his tally to five for the day.

Chapman started to dominate in the forward line with Lukosius down back as he kicked a nice snap goal and followed it up with a great mark and goal moments later to get his second for the quarter. The match sealer came from honest midfielder Tom Lewis who profited from a superb run down tackle from Chandler, as Lewis then shrugged an opponent to kick a wonderful snap goal.

South Australia ran out 55-point winners as the Croweaters produced their best performance for decider, the same couldn’t be said about Victoria Metro who were admirable across the championships but couldn’t match it with SA.

Rankine arguably only played two effective quarters and ended his day with best on ground honours with five goals from 17 disposals and a highlight reel for the ages. Midfielders Jackson Hately (24 disposals) and Jacob Kennerley (22 disposals) were effective across the day and were vital to South Australia’s ball movement and stoppage dominance, Kennerley impressive off the wing. Possible number one draft pick Lukosius was serviceable for his side in a relatively quiet outing for the star forward, as he shifted to play on King in latter stages of the match. South Australia MVP Valente (18 disposals) was at his solid best as on-ball partner Lewis (18 disposals) both carried most of the heavy grunt work across the midfield. Martin Frederick was superb off half-back with 16 disposals, as Frederick produced his best performance of the carnival in a time that mattered most.

For the disappointed Vic Metro, King’s performance was the main reason that it wasn’t an embarrassing score line for his side. King dominated in the contests against Riley Grundy as the way King flew for the ball made it almost impossible for the SA defenders to stop him, he kicked four goals for the day. Joseph Ayton-Delaney was a steady possession getter for his side when they were struggling to find it, as his 25 disposals for the day was a game high. Rowell was integral to Metro’s comeback in the third term and picked up 20 touches for the game. Bailey Smith was quiet in the opening stanza but slowly influenced as the game grew older he finished with 22 disposals and six tackles.

VIC METRO 0.1 2.3 8.5 9.7 (61)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 4.3 9.4 12.7 17.14 (116)

Goals
Vic Metro: King 4, Taylor 2, Mahony, Rendell, O’Hallora.
South Australia: Rankine 5, Jarvis 2, Chapman 2, Munn, Rozee, Lukosius, Chandler, Lochowiak, Siviour, Valente, Lewis.

Best
Vic Metro: King, Ayton-Delaney, Smith, Rowell, O’Halloran, Mahony
South Australia: Rankine, Kennerley, Hately, Lewis, Frederick, Chapman

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