Round 4 Thunder v Wolves
The Sheffield Thunder made a return to their new home at the Sheffield Tigers as they played host to the Wolverhampton Wolverines for AFL CNE Round 4.
The Wolverines and the Thunder came into the game with quite contrasting results in the previous rounds. Against what has been a solid Manchester outfit, who had beaten the Thunder earlier in the season, the Wolverines pulled off a minor upset by drawing after a very strong performance by the young Wolverhampton side. In comparison Sheffield had travelled to play Nottingham and were beaten quite convincingly after the loss of captain and ruckman Simon Vardy to injury and with other key players missing for the day left an inexperienced side to face a Scorpions side who had a plethora of experienced players taking to the field.
With the Wolverines coming in hot off a draw in the previous round and the Thunder (who have never lost to the Wolverines) desperately looking for their first win of the season left a tantalising game on the cards. The first quarter certainly didn’t disappoint. As the first quarter started the Thunder jumped on top of the Wolverhampton squad with a series of quick early goals with Aussie Kieran Prentice opening the scoring and Thunder rookie Marc Barr making an impact in his first game with an early goal. Throughout the first quarter great linking work from the home team proved to make for too fast a start for Wolverhampton as the Thunder backline including Stuart Connolly and Callum Merrick fed the ball well to stand outs Ryan Bower and James Cossins who in turn linked up well through the middle to get the ball up to the forward line. Wolverhampton did manage to pull together some good linking play of their own to have a few shots on goal but the first period finished with the Sheffield Thunder convincingly in charge 7.5 (47) to Wolverhampton’s 1.3 (9).
The second quarter got underway with just as much vigour from Sheffield as the first with the Thunder seemingly kicking goals at will. Good work from Nick Snowball and Tom Merton rotating in the ruck, in the absence of usual ruckman and captain Simon Vardy due to injury, gave good opportunities for the midfield to work together and create good opportunities for the forwards. Mick Kay standing out as usual was always an option and created many opportunities for the Thunder as they kicked on to a hefty half time lead after a further nine goals left the score heading into the break at Sheffield 16.11 (107) to Wolverhampton 2.3 (15).
As the teams came out for the second half the Thunder were very conscious of their previous third quarter performances with these proving to be the main factor in loses early in the season to Huddersfield and Manchester. With the challenge issued to start strong in the third it almost looked like the usual trend was going to continue with the Wolverines kicking the first goal. However the home side took charge again and put off any thoughts of a rally from the away team. Goals from Garth Nevin and Mick Kay kept the score board ticking over whilst Ryan Bower and Marc Barr continued their accurate form along with Nick Snowball adding his name to the list. Although the Thunder were dominant on the score board Wolverhampton were able to get a little more movement down the field. Led by Ian Mitchells experience the Wolverines were able to create a few more chances, just accuracy let them down as five out of their six scoring chances ended up as behinds as the third quarter came to a close with Sheffield leading 23.17 (155) to Wolverhampton’s 3.8 (26).
Heading into the final quarter it was clear the result was going to go the Sheffield teams way and the key was to finish on a good note with plenty of guys picking up experience. Wolverhampton stalwarts like Cameron Cope and Ian Mitchell weren’t about to go down without a fight though as the away side fought back with their best quarter of the game, kicking three good goals as the Thunder took their foot off the pedal a little. Sheffield still kept pushing forward, adding another six goals to their tally with the game closing out Sheffield Thunder 29.20 (194) defeating Wolverhampton Wovlerines 6.11 (47).