BY DOUG LONG. PHOTO: Nathan William Media.
Northern Football/Netball League club South Morang clung on in a low-scoring thriller to defeat Mernda by two points in round two of division three football.
The 4.7 (31) to 4.5 (29) win at Mill Park Lakes Reserve was sweet for the Lions – following a turbulent off-season which saw almost half their grand final side depart.
Adding to the merit of the victory was the fact that both Tye Hall and Mitchell Dickson were gone by quarter time.
With the ground heavy under foot and a strong wind blowing to the forward pocket opposite the scoreboard, scoring proved tough for both teams.
South Morang led for most of the day and seemed to handle the conditions better from the onset – leading 2.3 to nil at the first break when kicking to the scoring end.
From then on, Mernda fought its way back into the contest and hit the lead early in the final term.
Demons skipper Josh Delaney was prolific at half back for most of the game – with his intercept marking a feature. But he went forward and kicked two majors in the first five minutes of the final stanza.
His first goal came from a clever snap. The second followed a diving mark. He was the only multiple goal kicker in the match. At that stage a Mernda win seemed almost certain, but the South Morang players dug deep.
Most of the final term was played forward of centre for the Demons. The Lion defenders and midfielders worked extremely hard to block space and not allow an easy disposal. Harry Whybrow’s ruckwork was of great benefit as the game wore on.
Then, in one of their few forays forward in the final term, Matthew Trim had the ball in front of him within range, but under heavy pressure.
He was smart enough not to attempt to pick up the ball and he soccered it off the ground. It just crossed the line for full points before a Mernda defender could get a hand onto it. This capped off a great day for Trim – who was busy around half forward.
The goal was booted just over halfway through the final term – but was the last major for the day. A huge cheer of joy and relief erupted from the local faithful who braved the wintry conditions.
“That was the real South Morang,” a contented coach Gary Hall said.
For the Lions, Liam Failla, Ben Power and Bailey Brown repelled attack after attack and regularly found targets through the midfield. Cory Giannone also looks to have further improved from his 2017 season.
At the other end, Matthew Campbell took numerous intercept marks for the Demons. Anthony Volpe performed well on ball and slotted a good goal under pressure in the second term.
Mernda went into the game as favourite on the back of its impressive win over Panton Hill the previous week and the list changes over the off-season at the Lions.
“We were outworked all day,” a disappointed Demons coach Paul Derrick said. Derrick gathered his players on the ground immediately after the contest to discuss the defeat.
Mernda has a chance to redeem itself when it hosts Laurimar at Waterview Recreation Reserve in Round 3. South Morang has consecutive home games and next hosts Lalor at Mill Park Lakes Reserve.
South Morang 4.7 (31) defeated Mernda 4.5 (29).