Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
The Big Meat Pie Nationals vs Barbarians annual footy festival day was the place to be in Honiara across the weekend - below is a report from AFL Solomon Islands.
The stage was set at King George VI for yet another historic clash between the Solomon Islands Nationals against the combined expatriate & local side – Barbarians. A hot and dry day would see plenty of rotations and test players endeavour and willpower to win the footy for their team. With several National players unavailable for selection this year the Barbarians were hoping for an upset victory and to claim the trophy for first time.
Nationals won the toss and elected to kick to the school end with the breeze. Both teams met in the centre of the field for the official anthems and a minute silence to pay respect for two close friends of SIAFLF who recently passed, Graeme Wilson and Ed Smith. As the game got underway both teams took some time to find touch and settle into positions. Opening goal came off the boot of Nationals centre half forward Rossco Maeloboa. Barbarians snagged a quick goal a few minutes later and it was game on.
Nationals continued to use their pace to break the lines and move the ball forward in the first half. They could have secured the match had they kicked straight in front of goals but wayward kicking in the second quarter kept the Barbarians within reach. Barbarians were able to convert a couple goals of their own to keep the pressure on. The Nationals now needed to continue their work rate. Sam Bua found a lot of the footy and was instrumental in the first half setting up the Nationals along with ruckman Jermaine Akaramo who was taking strong grabs around the field and giving first touch of the footy to his midfielders.
After the halftime break, the Barbarians would have to work extremely hard to not let the scoreboard blow out. Nationals opened with the first goal but the game was evening out. Both teams showed good passages of play around the ground. Nationals were very composed coming out of defence, often switching the ball to the open side of the ground before attacking. Barbarians lacked the speed to run with the Nationals when the ball was out in space. Javvy Serere, David Holo and Ringamoto Mosese were all finding a lot of the footy for the Nationals and Jermaine continued to put the Nationals forward through his ruckwork. Chris Idu worked extremely hard on Sam Bua to keep him to only a handful of touches and Freddy Una stood tall in defence. Gut running wingmen for the Barbarians – Andrew McEvoy and Andrew Piper provided targets coming out of defence and also kept the pressure on the Nationals coming the other way. Pizza Pete was also working extremely hard to make it to the contests. Barbarians were able to score 3 successive goals to bring the margin back to 11 points but a late goal from the Nationals saw them take a 17point lead going into the final quarter.
As players tired in the blistering heat the Barbarians would have to leave nothing in the tank if they were going to win this match from here. Nationals maintained their quick ball movement and were able to find target s up forward. Barbarians struggled out of defence with Jermaine taking several contested marks across the Barbarians halfback line. Barbarians started dropping like flies with players cramping. Unable to run with the Nationals, the game was all but over for the Barbarians as the Nationals kicked away in the final quarter. All though it was a blow out in final term, the Barbarians fought gallantly against a younger, fitter and faster side. Coach of the Nationals: - Job Vulita was happy with his team’s effort considering many of their more experienced players were unable to play. Nationals declared the 2014 Big Meat Pie champions.
Final Scores: -
Nationals Best on Ground –Jermaine Akaramo
Barbarians Best on Ground – Pizza Pete
Captain of the Nationals, Ringamoto Mosese lays a strong tackle
Andrew McEvoy forced to dodge
Germain Aka and Dave Kelly contest the ruck
Danny Nugent tight on the boundary
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