Contributed by: Frederick Shaibani
The past three rounds of the AFL New Zealand premiership have seen a whirlwind of action, but one thing remains clear: the Central Giants are the class of the competition heading into the Easter weekend.
Round 5 Recap
The Southern Saints were looking to capture their elusive first win in 2018 and they finally got it, defeating the Northern Suns by 13 points at QBE Stadium. The first half was tightly contested, with both sides trading blows, but the Saints used excellent performances from Misilifi Faimalo and Pat Gibbs to lift them to a three-goal lead at the half.
Despite some valiant defensive pressure from the Suns, they couldn’t take advantage of further scoring opportunities. Star Saints Michael Boyce, Daniel Howie and Andriu Secu took care of the rest as they registered their first win of the 2018 season.
“I thought that we played to our potential today; we have certainly been building to it which is pleasing to see,” said Saints coach Craig Goodhue.
Final: Saints 7.12.54, Suns 5.11.41
Leading goalkickers (Saints): Misifili Faimalo (2), Pat Gibbs (2), Michael Boyce, Ryan Marsland, Clayton Walters
Leading goalkickers (Suns): Tim Stokes (2), Peter Van Kampen (2), James Kusel
Best on Ground (Saints): Misifili Faimalo
Best on Ground (Suns): James Kusel
The second games featured the two best teams in the competition thus far, the Central Giants and the Western Crows. As expected, the duo of Sam and James McKenzie got the Giants off to an outstanding start, but the Crows’ pressuring midfield kept them in the contest, holding the Giants to account while their own offense struggled.
Brad Wade’s two goals for the Crows kept them within striking distance at three-quarter time, trailing by three goals, but the Giants used a monster fourth quarter to seal the deal, winning by 67. However, the Giants’ coach, Christchurch native Izaak Williams, was complementary of the Crows in post-game. “The Crows are a good side. Before the game we spoke about having a strong fourth quarter and we managed to achieve that, which is fantastic to see.” Best on ground winner Tristan Burnett echoed this sentiment, saying that the game was much closer than the final scoreline suggested.
Final: Giants 15.11.101, Crows 4.9.33
Leading goalkickers (Giants): Sam McKenzie (5), James McKenzie (3), Nick Bailey (2), James Bowden, Tristan Burnett, Dean Smith, Josh Cunliffe, Elliot Bennetts
Leading goalkickers (Crows): Brad Wade (2), Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, Alastair Maisey
Best on ground (Giants): Tristan Burnett
Best on ground (Crows): Sam Burdett
Round 6 Recap
After securing their first win in Round 5, the Saints were looking to capitalize on that momentum, and they did, taking home an upset win over the heavily-favored Crows. A healthy Saints lineup was out to avenge their 63-point demolishing at the hands of the Crows in Round 2, and they showed it from the first bounce.
The first quarter almost entirely went to the Saints due to the wind conditions, but the Crows powered back, with four different players kicking majors to set up a two-goal differential at halftime. The third quarter was a heavily-contested affair, and Coach Goodhue was pleased with the Saints’ midfield tackling. Meanwhile, Alastair Maisey led the Crows with three majors and also took home best on ground honors.
The hero of the day was definitely Saints full forward Alex Fakatoumafi; the former International Cup star bagged five goals for the victorious side. However, star midfielder Ryan Marsland suffered an ankle injury and is likely done for the final two weeks of the season.
Final: Saints 12.6.78, Crows 11.5.71
Leading goalkickers (Saints): Alex Fakatoumafi (5), Ryan Marsland (2), Luke Williams (2), Clayton Walters (2), Carlos Donnell-Brown
Leading goalkickers (Crows): Alastair Maisey (3), Zac Maio (2), Ty Smith, Shane Leat, Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, Lewis Gill, Jay Johnson, Stephn Tabaillou
Best on ground (Saints): Andy Bissett
Best on ground (Crows): Alastair Maisey
The second game featured the Suns and the Giants, but another major upset was not in the cards at QBE Stadium -- the ladder-leading Giants cruised to another big win, defeating the Suns by 63 points.
James McKenzie continued his assault on the record books, booting five goals; he is now within striking distance of the single-season AFLNZ goalkicking record. Blake Nahu and Josh Cunliffe both dominated the midfield, but once again, the Giants defense stole the show, holding the Suns scoreless in the second quarter. Midfielders Nick Rhodes and Dean Smith were also very influential in attack alongside Nahu and Cunliffe.
Final: Giants 14.7.91, Suns 4.4.28
Leading goalkickers (Giants): James McKenzie (5), Wayne Sullivan (4), Declan Crann (2), Sam McKenzie, Josh Cunliffe, Blake Nahu
Leading goalkickers (Suns): Josh Allen (2), Josh Sedgwick, Brad Maloney
Best on ground (Giants): Nick Rhodes
Best on ground (Suns): Josh Hook
Round 7 Recap
With seven consecutive wins, the Giants are officially the 2018 AFLNZ premiers with only two rounds to go. The boys in the orange and charcoal beat the Saints in a 91-point laugher, scoring seven goals in the first term alone.
While Michael Boyce and his Saints were valiant in their efforts, they couldn’t get past the rock-solid Giants’ D. Blake Nahu and Declan Crann continued to show their worth as some of the best Kiwi midfielders in the competition. Additionally, James McKenzie is now only six goals away from tying the AFLNZ single-season record of 31.
Final: Giants 15.15.105, Saints 2.2.14
Leading goalkickers (Giants): Declan Crann (4), James McKenzie (4), Elliot Bennetts (3), Braedyn Collins, Sam McKenzie, James Dakin, Blake Nahu
Leading goalkickers (Saints): Alex Fakatoumafi
Best on ground (Giants): Blake Nahu
Best on ground (Saints): Nico Donnell-Brown
After their disappointing finish against the Saints in Round 6, the Western Crows were hungry to rebound against the Suns, winning by 35 to cement themselves as the competition’s second-best team once more.
Brad Wade (four goals) again showed his class for the Crows, while his Suns counterpart, forward Josh Sedgwick, also led the way with four majors after being held to only one goal in Round 6. New Zealand national team alum Ty Smith showed his aggression in the midfield for the Crows, earning best on ground, while defender James Kusel was once again a consistent presence for the Suns in the backline. Jackson Clince and Joel Brown had solid days in defense, too, having been some of the most consistent players for the Suns all season.
Final: Crows 13.13.91, Suns 8.8.56
Leading goalkicker (Crows): Brad Wade (4), Ben Hutton (2), Luke Dunning (2), Alastair Maisey (2), Zac Maio (2), Luke Williams
Leading goalkicker (Suns): Josh Sedgwick (4), Jackson Clince, James Kusel, Mitch Ryan, Ali Cargo
Best on ground (Crows): Ty Smith
Best on ground (Suns): Joel Brown
After a break for the long Easter weekend, the AFLNZ season is back for Round 8 in Auckland with the Suns and Saints kicking things off at 11:30 AM local time, while the hotly-anticipated Crows-Giants clash will start at 1:45 PM.
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