A final quarter masterclass from Patrick Fitzgerald helped Montmorency return to the winner’s list in the Northern Football Netball League’s Division 1, defeating finals hopeful Hurstbridge by 21 points at Montmorency Park North Oval.
This highly anticipated clash was always set to result in a classic finish, following the two sides’ draw in Round 5, and it looked to produce a similar conclusion when the Bridges led by a point a three-quarter time.
But the Magpies were clinical in the final term, with four consecutive majors from the magnificent Fitzgerald securing a 15.13 (103) to 13.4 (82) triumph.
Fitzgerald finished with seven goals for the match, which incredibly is the third time he’s achieved the feat in a game in 2023. He now has 61 majors in 14 games this season.
The win was vital for Jonathan Manzoney’s men, as following Bundoora’s defeat to Heidelberg, they are now eight points clear of the Bulls and Bulldogs in second position.
Fortunately for Hurstbridge, they still remain in fifth after Greensborough’s shock loss to Banyule on the weekend.
Sam Binion continued his outstanding 2023 form, dominating in the midfield and finding lots of the footy, Marcus Lentini too was enormous around stoppages for the hosts.
William Cookson was enormous for the away side and was hard to stop in the first half, whilst Mitchell Hymus backed up his brilliant performance against the Magpies in Round 5 with another terrific game.
Joel Naylor managed to make things interesting at the other end of the ground with a six-goal haul. He has now scored 26 majors in his last four matches, but his biggest highlight was a massive screamer that he clunked on the wing.
Inside 50, he was assisted well by Bailey Jordan who finished with four goals.
Fitzgerald got things going from the outset, with the first goal of the match within the opening minute after the home side streamed through the midfield, making an early statement on the visitors.
Despite the quick start from the Magpies, the Bridges responded by kicking the next three goals of the term, leaving Montmorency looking for answers.
Kicking accuracy helped the visitors lead into the break, as despite registering the same scoring shots, the visitors had 10 more points than their opposition.
The Bridges brought their momentum into the second term and kicked three goals within the first five minutes of the quarter to suddenly stretch the margin out to almost five goals.
Frustration started to get the better of the Magpies, who were giving away multiple free kicks to their opponents.
But just as Joel Cordwell’s men were on track to run away with the game, the Magpies started to compose themselves and soon flipped the switch.
Montmorency kicked six of the last eight majors in a high scoring second term. Corey Sleep was a standout, producing three of those six goals, to help the hosts wrestle back momentum and the lead heading into half time.
After a scintillating 11-goal second quarter, the third term only saw the four goals scored.
Importantly for Hurstbridge, they kicked the first of the quarter thanks to Jordan.
Both sides defended exceptionally well with such a tight score, as it was clear that neither team wanted to drop four crucial points this late into the season.
Two goals were kicked by each team for the quarter, and it was the visitors who managed to sneak a one-point advantage into a huge final term.
The fourth term produced an electric atmosphere which found spectators from both sides finding their voice to encourage their teams to step up in the final term.
Bailey Jordan set the tone for Hurstbridge by kicking the first goal of the last term in just the second minute, giving his side a crucial seven-point lead.
But their momentum didn’t last long, as Fitzgerald took over for the Magpies, kicking four consecutive majors to break the game right open and help Montmorency solidify a 21-point victory.