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Thursday, February 22 2018 @ 07:29 am ACDT

Musical Chairs For Finals Spots - NTFL

Australia
After the weekend’s round of matches, three clubs will be fighting for two remaining finals berths as the battle for finals hots up. St Mary’s, Waratah and the Tiwi Bombers will go into the final two rounds of the home and away season very aware that if they blink they can miss finals. What makes it even more compelling is that each of the three play against at least one of the others in the run home.

The Bombers have two cutthroat games to make the finals. They play both St Mary’s and Waratah – their rivals for a finals spot. St Mary’s have perhaps the better run home, playing against the Bombers next weekend but then meeting the Palmerston Magpies in the final round and a chance to lock away another finals challenge. Waratah have the toughest draw, up against ladder leaders – Southern Districts - and then a final round clash for likely fifth spot with the Bombers. It is a fascinating script.

The Darwin Buffaloes are not in a position to lose their remaining matches either. Whist they cannot fall out of the top five due to the three-way scrap beneath them - meaning that only one of those three teams is realistically likely to win both remaining games - there are ways that both Saints and Waratah could both win their matches. This would make the Buffaloes vulnerable, as their percentage is worse than any of the three teams below them. Darwin has to fend off an upset from Wanderers next round before clashing with Nightcliff in the final round. Next weekend is now a must-win for the Buffaloes also.

The Tiwi Bombers went down to the Southern Districts Crocs in a gallant display. They led for much of the day and only a final surge from the Crocs got them home at Tiwi Oval. What is interesting is the measure of improvement in the Bombers. Their last two starts against the Crocs saw 88-point and 77-point defeats. This time they took the ladder leaders to the wire, pushing the Crocs to just an 11-point result. It broke a run of five matches without loss for the Bombers, but it was still an effort worthy of note – especially if they meet in the finals.

Nightcliff Tigers downed St Mary’s by a comfortable six goals, assuring themselves of a top three finish at least and consigning St Mary’s to another unwanted loss. The Tigers led early, keeping the Saints at arm’s length before upping the ante in a four goal to nil third quarter. The wet conditions helped the Tigers, making it hard for Saints to get back into the game. The win was welcome for the Tigers after a slump that has seen just one win since the Christmas/New Year break.

The Darwin Buffaloes have almost (but not quite) secured third spot after defeating Waratah in the heavy conditions. In a low scoring match, the Buffaloes kept their horns in front all day, in the end sneaking away to a 14-point win. The loss for Waratah means that they cannot afford another mistake over the next two weeks. After seeing both the Bombers and Saints go down, the chance to leap into the top five was gift-wrapped, but not taken by the Tahs.

The Muk Muks salvaged something from a disappointing season when they conquered the Palmerston Magpies by 44 points. The Magpies had a good first quarter, keeping Wanderers goalless and holding a narrow three-point lead. However, from there it was all Wanderers as they went on to record their biggest win of the season and break a winless streak that goes back to Round Six.

The penultimate round of matches will see Nightcliff meet Palmerston, St Mary’s clashing with the Tiwi Bombers, the Darwin Buffaloes versus Wanderers and Waratah will take on Southern Districts. Finals chances are on the line in two of those matches, setting up a fascinating round of football as the game of musical chairs continues.

Final Scores:
Southern Districts 18 8 116 d Tiwi Bombers 16 9 105
Nightcliff Tigers 10 9 69 d St Mary’s 4 9 33
Darwin Buffaloes 8 8 56 d Waratah 6 6 42
Wanderers 12 9 81 d Palmerston Magpies 5 7 37



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