A hot and sunny Manchester greeted the teams for the first ever AFL CNE League Lightning Round. With all seven teams playing two games each a big crowd was in which helped create a fantastic carnival atmosphere.
Birmingham 6.2.38 – 5.6.36 Huddersfield
The Bears-Rams clash was vital for both teams as each were coming in winless from the first three rounds. There was a strong breeze for much of the match which played havoc with field kicking. Birmingham’s accuracy saw them lead by 4 points at half time, thanks largely to three goals from Jack Wood and from the drive of Sean Walton in the midfield.
Huddersfield dominated the second half with the ball spending most of the time deep in their forward line. Unfortunately for the Rams, the couple of times the Bears went forward against the flow of play they scored goals to give them some breathing space.
In the end in was a game of inches, with Rams forward Luke Booth shaving the inside of the post for what would have been the match-winning goal with minutes to go. The Rams also had another chance to steal the game with a shot after the siren but it drifted wide giving Birmingham their first win of the season.
It was a top quality game and showed both these sides are still well in the hunt in season 2012.
Nottingham 8.9.57 – 3.8.26 Sheffield
In the other early game Nottingham took on Sheffield in what looked to be the match of the day. Unfortunately for Sheffield their kicking was wayward in the first half, booting 1.6 to Nottingham’s 4.4. The Thunder had no answer to Ash Swift’s drive from the midfield and Sam Wood’s dominance up forward.
In the second half the Scorpions continued as the did in the first half, booting another 4 goals and continuing their perfect start to the season. As per usual Nottingham’s defence was stingy, letting in only 3 goals for the game.
Andy Kraefft was prominent all day in the ruck for the Scorpions and Sam Wood finished with 5, whilst Ben Miko continued his good form to be best for the Thunder.
Manchester 9.7.61 – 1.6.12 Huddersfield
With a 10 minute break between games Huddersfield had a big challenge on their hands in taking on the league-leader Manchester.
Manchester got out of the blocks quickly with goals to Tarren McAlister and Matt Wielgosz. Huddersfield stemmed the flow from there but struggled to make the Mozzies pay at the other end.
The Mosquitoes were never really troubled by the Rams and ended up winning by 8 goals.
For the Mozzies club stalwart Baz ‘Chris’ Sproule was prominent all day getting in and under the packs and feeding the forwards with pinpoint passes. For the Rams ruckman Graham Bickerdike fed the midfielders all day with some clever tapwork.
Sheffield 8.12.60 – 5.3.33 Wolverhampton
After a disappointing loss in their first game Sheffield game out full of energy in the first half against the Wolves. With Garth Nevin on fire up forward the Thunder piled on 7 goals to the Wolves’ 1. An unusual incident occurred just before half time when it was noticed that Wolverhampton were fielding 10 men instead of the maximum 9. The Wolves were forced to lose the 9 points they’d scored up until that point and restart the second half with no score.
The loss of their points spurred the Wolves on and they came out full of run in the second half kicking 5 goals to 1. Wolverhampton will regret their slow start as they showed in the second half they can match it with any team in the comp.
Sheffield will regret not closing the game out earlier, although Garth Nevin’s 8 behinds for the game showed they had their chances.
Leeds 5.4.34 – 2.8.20 Birmingham
In a tight low-scoring game Birmingham looked to have Leeds’ measure in the first half, leading by 2 points. It was a great battle of two high quality midfields.
The Minotaurs came home strongly in the second half kicking 3 goals to none. The Bears will be ruing their inaccuracy in front of goal, having more scoring shots but still losing.
Nottingham 11.9.75 – Wolverhampton 3.4.22
The Scorpions came into the game as hot favourites and didn’t disappoint. Led by their big full-forward Martin Kearney with 4 goals, Nottingham never looked troubled.
The match was a big learning experience for the Wolves who now know what it will take to beat the best in the business. For the Scorpions they now look forward to the match of the season thus far against Manchester on 9th June.
Manchester 15.12.102 – 2.7.19 Leeds
In the final game of the day the Mozzies took on the Minotaurs in front of a sunburnt and slightly tipsy crowd. A lack of available rotations meant that Leeds came into the game looking tired after a hard hitting game against Birmingham. Manchester showed them no mercy with 4 quick goals in the first few minutes. Crumbing forward Mike Kilheeney was everywhere, kicking a goal from a tight angle and handing off a number of assists to the tall forwards.
The game was effectively over at half time with Manchester up by 9 goals. The second half was more of the same but to their credit Leeds never gave up, holding the Mosquitoes to 5 goals. For the Mozzies Tarren McAlister had a day out up forward booting 4 goals, and Rick Clarke had a dominant second half. For Leeds Riley Kirkpatrick picked up a load of possessions.
There are no games next week due to the Queen’s Jubilee bank holiday weekend. On the 9th of June Nottingham will take on Manchester to decide who will sit on top of the table and become early favourites for the premiership. Wolverhampton travel up north to play Huddersfield and Leeds travel south to take on Birmingham.