Birmingham 16-12-108 – 10-16-76 Leeds
In usual Birmingham style, they came out fast and hit the scoreboard quickly scoring the first 2 majors. Leeds countered quickly and began peppering the goals. The Leeds experience showed through in the air and the contested ball but Birminghams had numbers around the contest. It was a hard fought quarter but Leeds inaccurate kicking gave Birmingham an 8 point lead.
B 4-1-25 vs L 3-5-23
The second quarter was a similar battle to the first with Birmingham starting the quarter fast and hitting the scoreboard first with Sean Walton Dominating the ruck. The Leeds full back Ben Warran was playing fantastic and countering a number of assaults from Birmingham and a similar show was going on down the other end with Birminghams full back (Ollie Delieto) doing the same. Leeds Midfielder Dave Speight went down with a dislocated shoulder after a heavy collision with Dave Wheaton. Both players showed courage at the contested footy but unfortunately it left Leeds with only 9 for the rest of the game. Once again Leeds missed opportunities left Birmingham with the lead at half time.
B 9-2-56 vs L 5-11-41
The old “premiership quarter” was as appropriate as ever as the contest was tight and both teams needed a good quarter to set them up for the win. The quarter was harder contested than the first two with both teams fighting furiously in defence to limit the scoring opportunities but on a small field they can come quickly and in a flurry. Birmingham still had run and were using the handball well but Leeds experience and clever play gave them the opportunities to counter attack. The highlight of the quarter was a mark of the year contender for Leeds forward James Wilson when he flew high over Tim Smith to mark and goal. At the end of the quarter Birmingham had extended there lead to 27 points.
B 13-5-83 vs L 7-15-57
Despite the lead the game was still up for grabs and Leeds came out hard and with some nice movement through the midfield and delivery they kicked the first two goals of the quarter and began to close the gap. Birmingham countered but were struggling to kick accurately under the Leeds pressure until finally they broke through with 2 majors giving them some breathing space. Leeds never gave up but the numbers of Birmingham with a strong bench was difficult to compete with having no bench and at one stage only 8 players and in the end Birmingham finished 32 point winners only just winning the final quarter.
B 16-12-108 vs L 10-16-76
Huddersfield Rams 73 v 66 Wolverhampton Wolverines
Huddersfield went into their first home game of the season looking to break their season duck against a quickly improving Wolverhampton side. Both teams fielded all English squads (a first for the AFL Central & Northern League) with the majority of the players under 21, illustrating the growing nature of the sport in this country.
The Rams started very strong with Brandon Fletcher grabbing the first six-pointer within the first minute through good work by Sam Gill, Matt Whiteley and Captain Jason Battye. A strong Rams line up continued to take the game to the visitors and would have built up a healthy lead if not for wayward kicking. Huddersfield then began to stutter when they rotated their starting line up, and the Wolverines capitalised on this. Wolverhampton began being first to the loose ball and regularly finding space as Huddersfield floundered through the disorientation caused by the rotations. Wolverhampton finished the quarter on top, proving that their young side was more than a match for the more experienced Rams team.
The second quarter saw the visitors continue their ascendancy. Accurate kicking and excellent hand passing by Wolves had Huddersfield chasing shadows as No.5 and Craig Degville began to assert themselves on the game. England captain Ian Mitchell marshalled the Wolverines defence well, preventing Huddersfield from finding any kind of rhythm. Wolverhampton went into the break with their heads held up high as they looked to punish an all-at-sea Huddersfield side that was still to recover from the disruptions caused by too regular interchanges.
The Rams came out for the second half determined to fully get back on level terms. However Wolverhampton had other ideas and quickly swatted away any ambitions that Huddersfield had. Strong play from Andrew Evans-Elson and Mark Williams softened the Rams defence, with Lewis Gedney pouncing on the lose ball to punish any minor mistakes. Huddersfield missed gettable chances in front of the post, notably from Battye and James Sunderland, the latter having his shot smothered by the prominent Mitchell. Naïve play from the home side and a failure to get tight to their man enabled the Wolverhampton midfield and attack to thrive as they racked up what seemed like an insurmountable lead going into the final phase of the game.
The game followed the same format as the final quarter saw a disjointed Huddersfield continue to fail to click. Whiteley hit the post from distance, one of five occurrences for the home side, and it looked like it was not to be Huddersfield’s day. Then with 15 minutes to go the game turned through “The Captain’s goal”. Battye picked up a loose ball 30 metres out and forced it between the sticks to signal the start of the comeback. Karl Haigh surged forward from defence and slotted over from 40 metres out. Rookie Jordan Sild scored from a tight angle on the touchline. Antony Brown and Gill finally got to grips with the Wolverhampton midfield. And Fletcher shored up the defence and ensured that the Wolves were kept at bay. Luke Booth snapped two goals in from difficult positions and Sild robbed the now hesitant visitors’ defender to grab his second of the game and his team’s winner. Rams’ player of the day was their inspirational backman Karl Haigh who illustrated the Rams values of guts, determination and bravery to inspire the team to victory.
This was a tough game played in soggy conditions with both teams battling hard for the footy. Wolverhampton are developing a fine young side that will be competitive for years to come, and with Huddersfield’s recruitment policy bearing fruits the state of the game of Aussie Rules in this country looks healthy. Huddersfield now travel to Birmingham Bears looking to make it two wins in a row as they seek to make the end of season play-offs for the second year running.
Manchester 15.17 107 – 10.9 69 Nottingham
Round 5 saw the top two teams in the league go head to head, Nottingham vs Manchester. Both undefeated so far this season. Statistically Nottingham is the best defensive team and Manchester is the best offensive team. Both would be put to the test on a damp and slippery day.
Unfortunately for the Scorpions, they decided not to play footy for the first 20 mintutes. Manchester steam rolled them scoring 7 unanswered goals. Disorganisation, lack of focus, ball watching and not marking their men would cost Nottingham dearly with Manchester moving the ball around the park at will. The quarter couldn’t have finished soon enough ending Manchester 7-2-44 to Nottingham 0-2-2.
Manchester were understandably jubilant with their start, getting ready to crack open the champagne already. But some strong words at quarter time and strategic positional changes from the captain Rich Lucas proved all the difference, strengthing the Scorpions resolve not to give in and take the fight to the Mozzies.
The second and third quarters were hard fought but constant pressure and some big hits from the Scorpions forced Manchester to rush their kicks and passes disrupting their control of the game. Nottingham managed to claw back 15 points in the next 40 minutes, showing that despite the rubbish start we were still a force to be reckoned with, and getting to within 5 goals with 20 minutes remaining. The half ended Manchester 11-3-69 to Nottingham 5-4-34 and third quarter Manchester 12-10-82 to Nottingham 8-7-55.
The final quarter saw more of the same hard work from both sides and despite a multitude of scoring opportunities by the Mozzies in the second half of the game, the Scorpions defence kept them to the sides and near the 40m so they couldn’t convert most into goals. With a mountain to climb in the final 10 minutes the Scorpions had to play some desperation football but it didn’t pay off. A last second goal from the Mozzies sealed the win of the final quarter and the game, Manchester 15-17-107 to Nottingham 10-9-69.
Round 5 on 16th June sees Leeds host their first home game where they take on Manchester. Nottingham play Sheffield also at Leeds; while Huddersfield jump on the M6 to take on Birmingham.