Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The two matches in the NTFL Premier League finals series on Saturday have again seen the agony and ecstasy of a season finished or a season on a roll. Waratah kept their flag hopes alive and the Tiwi Bombers continued to be the form team in the league. Last year’s grand finalists, the Darwin Buffaloes, had an early exit and end to their season whilst the Southern Districts Crocs lost but can fight another day.
The Nightcliff Tigers watched on and learned as the other teams battled before them.
The first match of the finals at TIO Stadium saw Waratah and Darwin battle for the second successive week. Last weekend it was jostling for finals positions – this weekend it was sudden death to the loser. Remarkably, the script was eerily similar. A tight first quarter was followed by a big Waratah second quarter. At half time, Waratah were five goals up, also similar to last week.
Whilst the Buffaloes scored more in the second half this time than last weekend, they were still comprehensively thrashed in the second half as Waratah piled on twelve goals to five – last week it was ten goals to one. It is difficult for Darwin to claim they were unlucky as the sense of déjà vu this weekend was palpable. Waratah ran out 73 point winners (last weekend it was 76 points) and booked a berth in the elimination semi-final against Southern Districts.
The Tiwi Bombers proved their end of season form was no fluke. After racing to an impressive third place on the ladder after winning nine of their last thirteen matches (including six from seven since the Christmas/New Year break), the worry was whether they could sustain that form and pressure come finals time.
In a tough match, the Crocs led by two goals at the first break and extended that to 19 points at half time. Finals are different to round matches, and when the Crocs got 27 points up early in the third term it looked like the Bomber dream could be shaky. But as storm clouds started to gather over Darwin, so the Bombers began to rumble. Their run and carry from that point was too much for the Crocs, leading by two points at the final break before going on to win by 21 points.
Just as the Bombers proved their Round 14 win over the Crocs away from home was no case of luck (they won that match by 22 points), they now have a chance to tackle Nightcliff. Last time they met in Round 15, the Bombers hung on in a thriller by one point on the Tigers’ home turf. The Bombers are a realistic chance to win again and proceed to the grand-final, though the Tigers will fight hard.
Waratah defeated the Crocs earlier in the season at the Crocs’ home ground. Last time they met it was the Crocs winning at TIO Stadium in Round 17. Honours are shared, so their battle next weekend to avoid elimination will be a cracker of a game.
Waratah Warriors 21 7 133 d Darwin Buffaloes 8 12 60
Tiwi Bombers 13 8 86 d Southern Districts Crocs 10 5 65
Semi-Final 2 – Nightcliff Tigers v Tiwi Bombers – TIO Stadium 4.30pm
Semi-Final 1 – Southern Districts Crocs v Waratah Warrior – TIO Stadium 7.00pm
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