Battle of the ’Bridge

Young gun: Mtichell Lienert is hoping his Imperial side can record their second win of the year against Ramblers on Saturday.

Young gun: Mtichell Lienert is hoping his Imperial side can record their second win of the year against Ramblers on Saturday.

Ramblers v Imperials

Back in action: Tailem Bend's Nathan Hansen in action for the Eagles before the league-wide mid-season break.

Back in action: Tailem Bend's Nathan Hansen in action for the Eagles before the league-wide mid-season break.

The Cawte-Norrish Cup is up for grabs as the Roosters and Blues go head-to-head in round 10 of River Murray footy.

The arch-rivals are both in unfamiliar positions in the bottom half of the table – Imperials are one win and seven losses and are anchored on the bottom of the premiership table while Ramblers are fifth with just a one-win buffer above Jervois in the top five on the ladder.

For Imperials, that one win of the season so far, in late April, feels so long ago and the Blues are under the pump.

If Imperials are to claw their way back into finals contention, their run needs to start now.

It’s not beyond the Blues – let’s face it, it’s a top five in a seven team competition so they only need to climb two spots.

However, with the recent hot form of the other side out of the five, in Jervois, and with the improvement of the other sides above them on the ladder in the last month of football, it’s going to take a dramatic turn around for Imperials to shake their blues.

When the sides met in round three it was a low-scoring affair with Ramblers edging out the Imperials by nine points.

Since then, Ramblers has won only one from its past five matches so the Roosters are under the pump too.

Imperials have been well-served by Daniel Girdham and you’d expect he’d be leading the side’s best and fairest count at the halfway mark.

It was a big blow when the Blues lost Ben Woolford to injury while former Mail medalist Phil Smith has been another solid performer who has spent some time on the sidelines.

He returned from a hand injury last round but reports are he was helped from the ground with an apparent ankle injury so he could be in doubt. 

Fellow Blues midfielders Mitch Lienert and Dylan Hollitt have had their moments while ruck recruit Matthew Williams has been high in the Blues best players list in almost each game he has played.

For the Roosters, mids Jarrad Weyland, Patrick O'Neil, Brandon Thiele and big man Matthew Altmann have been leading the way.

Both sides have struggled to find consistent goal kickers as each team has only one goal-kicker each with double figures in their season tally up to round 10; David Wilson has kicked 10 goals for the Reds and Brad Lienert 11 for the Blues. 

Alex Pfeiffer is a solid performer in defence while for Imperials, their main man in the back half is Ben Quast. 

Both teams will be desperate to win on Saturday; the Blues need to start making inroads on their quest to play finals while the Roosters are only just holding onto their spot in the top five.

It is hard to pick a winner, but the Reds have achieved more to this point and go in slight favourites on Saturday.

The Standard’s tip: Ramblers, by 1-10 points.

Mannum v Jervois

The Mannum Roos host the Jervois Bluds as River Murray footy returns after the mid-season break.

Mannum is the form team of the competition and have not lost since round one.

They sit in second place with only percentage keeping the Roos off the top of the table while the Bluds had a slow start to the year before recording wins against Tailem Bend and Mypolonga.

The Bluds 100-point win over Mypo sent a message that Jervois was starting to piece it together and emerge as real contenders but a 48-point home loss to Meningie halted the momentum just a little bit.

Jervois’ improvement has been on the back of the form of forward Justin Hardy and the introduction of player-coach Ryan Willits who was on the sidelines at the start the season.

Hardy’s month before the Meningie clash was awesome – the key forward kicked a few bags and got the Bluds over the line to help turn around their season.

Meningie restricted Hardy to just two majors and the Roos will be hoping to do the same.

But while Hardy will have to be closely marked at one end, Mannum has almost the unmarkable at the other end, in Gene Robinson.

Robinson’s record this season has been impressive; he’s kicked 56 goals in eight matches, averaging seven majors a game.

In the last four matches, Robinson kicked 8, 11, 8 and 12 goals in a remarkable display of goal-kicking prowess.

He is given good supply with one the competition’s finest midfielders in Levi Krause and his supporting act Jai De Zylva in hot form.

Mannum’s playing-coach Michael O’Malley is a premier defender who is rarely beaten while the Roos’ Jake Bowen and Jervois’ Tony Gibson are set for yet another good battle in ruck.

The Mannum side appears too strong to drop this one at home but Jervois has a knack for taking down heavyweights and the Bluds’ form has been good.

The Standard’s tip: Mannum, 21-30 points.

Meningie v Tailem Bend

Ladder leaders Meningie host the fourth-placed Tailem Bend Eagles on Saturday.

The Bears will start hot favourites at home while Tailem Bend will be hoping to respond after a poor performance last outing.

The Bears have had only the one loss, to Mannum, at Mannum, while Tailem Bend’s form has been fluctuating.

The Eagles smashed Imperials at home a few weeks ago and looked to be gathering momentum at third on the premiership table.

But then Tailem Bend had a bye and had to front up to a Mypolonga side the next week which overran them early to hand them a 46-point loss.

Last time the Bears and Eagles met, Meningie got the chocolates - Tailem Bend stayed with them before being overrun in the third quarter.

Playing-coach Brian Fenton missed the Bears last win against Jervois but he will be back, and the powerful midfielder has added another string to his bow this season, spending more time up forward and kicking more goals.

Former AFL star Brodie Martin was brilliant, kicking seven goals, while new recruits Karl Lodhe and Harrison Slee are relieving the pressure on Fenton in the guts.

The Eagles forwards in former Adelaide Crow Scott Welsh, Mackenzie Hansen, Michael Sumner and Steven Clay will have to make the most of each opportunity the ball comes forward as the Eagles are in for a tough challenge in the midfield with Meningie’s Peter Nelson giving the Bears’ all-star midfielders first use.

For whatever reason, the Eagles seem to play better away from home.

However, the lakeside oval has not been a happy hunting ground for the Eagles.

Or for many teams in the last few years for the matter and the Bears will be eyeing off a comfortable win.

For the Eagles, who sit at three wins and four losses, it is a telling game to see if they can now match it with the big guns and gauge just how far they have actually come in the past 12 months.

The Standard’s tip: Meningie, 31-40 points.

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