The River Murray Football League under 18 side has produced one of its most convincing displays in interleague football by securing a fantastic 54-point win over a Hills U18 team at Murray Bridge.
The RMFL boys withstood a fierce barrage from the Hills side early, but powered home in the last half, running out 15.5 to 6.5 winners.
Early in the game, the dominance of the Hills’ Matthew Chapman, Max Glover and Dylan Hopgood was obvious, but the class of Zane Barry, Blake Tabe and Seth Catford was not far behind and their best cut the Hills side to ribbons.
Barry epitomised River Murray’s dedication to the task with his non-stop running and attack on the ball.
Tabe had plenty of the ball and used his pace and brilliance to continually poke holes in the Hills’ defence.
His ability to read the ball and be at the contest was a telling factor and one the Hills were never able to completely control.
The second quarter was tough and hard football with neither side giving the other an inch.
When the River Murray sensed they were setting up for a goal, it was the hard-at-it Chapman who steadied for the Hills.
His decision making was first class and he rarely wasted a ball.
The River Murray’s Connor Smelt continued to dominate his position at full forward and when he kicked a huge goal, River Murray appeared to have more run than their opponents.
The football played by both sides in the first half was of a very high standard and worth the entry fee alone.
When the siren sounded to end the first half the score was 6.2 to 5.1 in the home side’s favour.
In the last half the River Murray boys broke open the game, kicking nine goals to the Hills’ one.
The home side had all their components functioning and firing in correct sequence.
Christian Murison and Catford controlled the game from half back and played super games for the home side.
Contrastingly, the Hills had few in sync to support the likes of Chapman, Hopgood, Glover and Lachlan Elsworthy.
River Murray drilled five goals in the third quarter, had the Hills boys on the ropes and know where to go.
The River Murray forwards tormented the visitors’ defense; the Hills side was destroyed in close and exposed horribly in defense.
Tabe, Barry, Catford, Murison and Smelt ran rampant and if they had opponents, no one from the Hills camp owned up.
The home side had stars on every line as they hit targets, took their marks and finished well in front of goal.
The Hills battled to spot up loose opponents, especially by hand, and when goal-scoring opportunities presented they were not taken.
Fluent movement into the forward line enabled River Murray to provide “gun” spearhead Smelt with some crisp ball movement and he did not disappoint.
He finished the day with seven goals and his clear dominance in the air had the Hills’ backs second-guessing on most occasions.
The delivery into River Murray’s forward 50 was constant and it was inevitable the Hills’ defense would collapse under the onslaught.
The Hills’ back men were not helped by costly turnovers and on the break the River Murray side was a damaging prospect.
River Murray’s dominance in the last half was reflected in the statistics.
They had 12 scoring shots to five – nine of these resulting in majors – and, significantly, won more of the hard-ball gets and, just as importantly, the efforts of Tabe and Barry gave them more than double the centre clearances than that of the Hills’ side.
There was no secret in the RMFLs’ game plan – just attack the confrontation and put pressure on the opposition.
When they secured possession they went long and direct, looking for their big men up forward.
If the talls didn’t mark the ball they brought it to ground to let smaller teammates pounce.
RMFL coach Josh Coulter said he was proud of all the boys and that the team had worked hard to put its best foot forward.
“We have been training for six weeks and the boys were switched on right from the word go, they were committed to training and had a high level of passion and determination and a respect for being picked to represent the River Murray,” he said.
“One of the best things about winning this is that it highlights just how much talent there is running around in the league.
“The pool of talent we have in our league is very strong and it was a great opportunity to show it off.
“For some players this may just be the start of bigger and better things.”
River Murray’s best were Tabe – pure class – Barry with his dash and panache, and Murison and Catford, who mercilessly harassed the Hills’ forward line for most of the day and never yielded a centimetre in defense.
Smelt was outstanding both on the lead and with his ability to take the contested mark.
For Hills, Chapman played smart footy and was disciplined and effective, as is his style.
Glover never stopped trying and Hopgood and Elsworthy also provided moments of brilliance.