Giants maintain perfect record, with Crows not far behind
Wednesday, March 07 2018 @ 04:42 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Frederick Shaibani
We’re one month into the AFL New Zealand premiership season, and the Central Giants have stayed atop the ladder with two convincing victories in as many weeks.
Round 3 Recap
Round 3 saw the Giants take on the Northern Suns at QBE Stadium in Auckland. The Suns were feeling confident after a strong two weeks of competition, but the Giants kicked the first four goals of the match to gain a 30-point lead heading into halftime. Once again, the two Jameses -- Bowden and McKenzie -- were dangerous in the forward line for the Giants.
All was not lost for the Suns, however, as they put in a spirited effort throughout the match. Defender Alex Awatere received best on ground honors, and Jackson Clince managed to kick a pair of goals as well. However, the Giants ended up bringing home their third straight victory with a big second half.
“They kicked some late goals in each of the quarters, but we managed to put on a four quarter performance quarter today,” said Giants assistant Wayne Sullivan.
Final: Giants 13.6.84
Goalkickers (Giants): James Bowden (5), James McKenzie (3), Sam McKenzie (2), Tayne Lockwood (2), Declan Crann
Goalkickers (Suns): Jackson Clince (2), Ari Cohen (2), Joel Brown, Josh Mackie, Heta Scarf-Matthews
Best on Ground (Giants): Nick Rhodes
Best on Ground (Suns): Alexa Awatere
In the second game, the Western Crows continued to show themselves as potential premiership contenders in 2018, smashing the Southern Saints by 79 points. Star midfielders Jay Johnson and Shane Leat used their speed and ball skills to dominate the clearances and disposals for the Crows. Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas booted three goals, as did Zac Maio. Johnson, the Crows’ captain, kicked two of his own.
While the Saints were hampered by injuries heading into the game, they simply didn’t have enough answers against the high-powered Crows side. Key defender/captain Michael Boyce (two goals) had to move into the midfield due to the injury-related absences of Carlos Donnell-Brown and Andriu Sucu. Ryan Marsland had three of the Saints’ five goals, and young defender Hayden Johnston was named best on ground for the Saints in the match. Coaches seem excited about his future with the club.
Final: Crows 16.6.112
Goalkickers (Crows): Zac Maio (3), Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas (3), Brad Wade (2), Jay Johnson (2), Joey Alesich-Tamariki, Jed Williams, Steph Tabaillou, Lewis Gill, Alastair Maisey, David Rattenbury
Goalkickers (Saints): Ryan Marsland (3), Michael Boyce (2)
Best on ground (Crows): Joey Alesich-Tamariki
Best on ground (Saints): Hayden Johnston
Round 4 Recap
The Crows were back at again in Round 4, securing another solid win to put on their resume despite blustery conditions at QBE Stadium. Josh Mackie and Ari Cohen kicked the first two goals for the Suns in a hard-fought first quarter, but the Crows were able to bounce back, aided by some strong pace courtesy of Shane Leat. It was a similarly back-and-forth affair for both sides in the second quarter, but Crows coach Andrew Crighton was ready and confident.
“We knew that if we could ride out the first couple of quarters, then we could look to put the foot down in the second half, which is exactly what we did,” Crighton explained in his post-match interview.
Crighton also showed a willingness to take advantage of mismatches, switching natural defender Alastair Maisey to the forward line, while moving Steph Tabaillou to the halfback line. This strategy, combined with a constant attacking effort around the footy, helped propel the Crows to a 32-point win.
Meanwhile, in the second game, the Giants stayed perfect at 4-0 with another resounding victory, this time over the Saints. Once again, Josh Bowden was one of the best players for the Giants, kicking three goals.
However, the newly-healthy Saints gave the Giants all they could take early in the first half. The Giants held a double-digit lead after the halftime siren sounded, but the Saints still couldn’t take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Nick Rhodes and Harry Manks were superb in defense for the Giants, but Xavier Rice was equally effective in that area for the Saints, holding Giant gun James McKenzie to only one goal for the match.
The Giants came alive in the second half and cruised to a 49-point win, but the Saints should feel good about their chances in the second month of the season and beyond if they stay healthy. They have a nice nucleus of young talent that will serve them well in the near future.