South Pacific too strong for World in first official match
Sunday, July 04 2010 @ 02:54 PM ACST
Contributed by: Fiona Austen
The South Pacific entered the first round of the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships as warm favourites to beat the World XVIII squad, and they proved to be deserving of that position, stretching their lead at every break, though really only breaking free in the last quarter, to win by 32 points. Match report below, photos to follow soon.
With bright sunshine and near perfect conditions in Western Sydney's Blacktown and the new AFL facility looking a picture, the teams lined up before the game, the highlight being the South Pacific giving a spirited multinational equivalent of the Haka, listing in turn the countries the boys come from: PNG, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Nauru, Fiji, Solomon Islands and New Zealand, all called out in turn with a lot of gusto.
With superior ball skills and enthusiastic run the South Pacific dominated play early but failed to convert when the World XVIII in a rare 50m entry snatched the first goal. But further forward movements driven by lots of run off half back and centre line dominance saw the Pacific getting a well deserved late goal.
Early in the 2nd in a scrappy phase despite J.Lo Buluk's good ruck work for the World, South Pacific dominated the clearances and again had more of the ball in their forward 50 and looked like taking control of the game but hard work in defence saw the World repeatedly hold out and force inaccurate kicking. Midway through the quarter the World strung some good passes together and posted a couple of late majors to keep them firmly in the game and with only a goal the difference going into the main break it was anybody's match.
With a sniff of a surprise lead the World dominated the early part of the 3rd repeatedly threatening the goals with much improved ball handling and better targeting of passes but spirited defence kept them out. Against much of the play the South Pacific went forward and perhaps with a more coherent forward line managed to sneak the only goal of the quarter, stretching their lead to 11 points at the last break.
With the pressure to score on the World they once again showed some courage and a late charge looked possible but again good running and tackling backed up with better foot skills from the South Pacific gradually saw them get on top as the quarter proceeded, with Slim Collins from PNG finding the goals and the South Pacific running out comfortable winners in the end.
All in all it was an impressive match considering the length of time some of these boys have held a Sherrin, let alone the little actual match time they have had. The South Pacific showed a determination and run that may have them surprising some of the other teams, a few matches under their belts and quicker release of the ball, could see them stringing fast movements and many dangerous forward thrusts together. The World team obviously lacking the time with the Sherrin in hand showed some simple skill errors but more than made up for it with enthusiasm, some good individual performances and a strong team spirit exemplified by the sight of all their players walking proudly from the ground as one after the game.
Next up in huge tests, the World takes on Tasmania and the South Pacific plays Queensland, both on Wednesday.
South Pacific 1.5 3.6 4.8 7.12 (54)
World XVIII 1.0 3.0 3.3 3.4 (22)
South Pacific: John Ikupu (PNG) 3, Slim Collins (PNG) 3, Aviata Siuta (Samoa) 1
World: P. Ajang (Kenya) 1, P Nematswerani (Sth Africa) 1, J.Lo Buluk (Sudan) 1
South Pacific: Wolfgramm, Collins, Pena, Nao, Ackland, Harris
World: Irra, Clark, Elliot, Buluk, O'Kennedy, McPhee