Sunday 1 August 2010

Redland smashed a 10-year hoodoo and put a whole new complexion on the QAFL premiership race with a stunning eight-point win over Southport at Victoria Point today.

The Bombers played with an intensity and passion – and equally importantly skill level – that proved too hard for Southport to counter in a top quality game of football.

The final score was 17.13 (115) to 15.17 (107).

The Bombers bounced out of the blocks with a scintillating 8.5 to 5.1 opening term, held a 14-point advantage at halftime, pushed that out to 26 points in the third before the Sharks hit back to within two goals, then won a war of nerves in the final term when Southport moved to within four points at the 24-minute mark.

The victory was Redland’s first over Southport since they joined the QAFL in 2000 and came after 25 unsuccessful attempts.

“We’re just improving all the time. We’ve made some terrific ground since midway through the season and we’re getting better and better,” said delighted Bombers coach Matty Francis. “We’ve been improving, we just haven’t been able to put it together for as long as that.”

Their win leaves Labrador alone in first place, Southport now in a battle with Morningside for hosting rights for the qualifying final, and Redland level with fifth-placed NT Thunder.

The Thunder have a danger game at Aspley next Saturday, while the Bombers have another tough assignment at Labrador.

The Bombers will worry about that tomorrow, content to savour the delights of the greatest win in the club’s decade-long history in the QAFL.

A good start was always going to be important to the Bombers, but no-one could have imagined them booting eight goals in the opening stanza.

They dominated the centre clearances with Jason Paxman and Paul O’Shea jumping over Dean Putt, and Matty Thomson sharking brilliantly at ground level.

With Phil Carse and Jamie Hackett also providing ground level support, the Bombers launched waves of attacks, with Ben Weightman kicking two early goals and having a hand in another.

Southport were kept in the game by the work of outstanding midfielders Darren Pfeiffer and David James, and centre-half-forward Ben Merrett.

Redland booted five goals in time-on, including three in the last three minutes to open an advantage.

Re-born full-forward Matt Ghirardello kicked two of them, giving plenty against tough opponent Kurt Niklaus.

Southport’s midfield ran back harder in the second term in a more grinding affair where the Bombers forward line became more clogged.

The biggest difference to earlier in the season was Redland’s use of the ball, both by hand and foot, putting the ball to the advantage of their teammates rather than having to bend for it.

The Sharks pulled to within eight points in a real arm-wrestle before James Charleworth – elusive forward and in the middle – stole a late goal against the run of play.

The passion was rekindled in the Bombers during the halftime break and they exploded out of the blocks in third term, Weightman nabbing his third goal within 40 seconds of the re-start and Adam Mueller getting his second two minutes later.

Three times during the quarter the Bomber stretched the lead past four goals, only for Southport to steel themselves and hit back.

Adrian Williams hit back in his contest with Merrett through the middle stages, Putt took a string of contested marks around the ground and in a great battle with Paxman, and Scott Clouston covered tremendous ground from half-forward to continually present as an option.

Matty Payne was busy all day for the Sharks and he and James generated plenty of run for the Sharks in the latter stages of the term as the Bombers appeared to be tiring from the heat and their hard-running efforts.

When Thomson kicked one of the goals of the season, winning the ball out of the middle, regaining it at half-forward and burning off Pfeiffer to goal on his left foot, the Bombers appeared inspired.

But the Sharks grabbed two goals in three minutes near the end of time-on to move within 12 points.

Controversy raged as Redland swept the ball forward in the dying seconds, Weightman reading the ball brilliantly off the pack to run into an open goal and raise the roof of the members stand.

However, the siren had sounded – heard only in some part of the ground – and after much deliberation the umpires judged the siren had sounded before the ball hit his foot.

It might have devastated the Bombers of old, but this group kept on counter-punching and Clouston and Daniel Dzufer showed all their experience by winning a glut of ball early in the final term.

It took 12 minutes for the first goal to come, via Merrett, who came back strongly into the game when moved to full-forward.

Clouston replied within two minutes to calm home side nerves as players from both sides tackled and applied pressure relentlessly, despite being out on their feet.

When Payne crumbed a pack and nailed his third at the 24-minute mark, the margin was just four points and the Sharks’ 26th win in a row over the Bombers was still a possibility.
Two furious minutes ensued before the hard-leading Justin Carey found himself in space at half forward and booted the most important goal of his Redland career.

Redland had numerous heroes.

Former Redland junior Thomson was sensational with his midfield work over four quarters, Carse, Justin Myers, Charlesworth, Blake Passfield and the dynamic Hackett were outstanding, Clouston was almost unstoppable, Adam Mueller took some freakish marks at critical times, and Weightman and Carey were dangerous up forward.

The defensive unit was terrific, with Jesse Dixon keeping Cameron Maclaren goalless and Adam Boon winning a mountain of contested ball in the second half in particular.

Paxman’s rockwork was critical to the momentum generated out of the centre and O’Shea did well when in defence and the ruck.

So good was Redland’s effort that it was almost unfair to single out individuals.

“We won the game by our second players beating their top tier players,” Francis said. “Dixon beating Maclaren, who is a fantastic player; Boon doing the job on Payne when he went forward; Williams on Merrett, Paxman on Putt.

“For them to hold the fort, that got us over the line. In saying that, our good players were terrific too.”

There were jubilant scenes after the game, with the entire playing group and their supporters delighting in the win.

“I got one of the board members, Anthony Mueller, to talk to the boys after the game to put it in perspective what they had achieved,” Francis said.

While Southport coach Craig Crowley was angry after his side’s third consecutive loss, they did participate in a quality game.

However, he was disappointed with the contrast in excitement levels shown by the Bombers players compared to his Sharks all day.

“Their lesser players played higher than ours,” Crowley said, concurring with Francis. “They committed themselves, they got involved in the contest, they ran harder at the football.

“We’ve got to get together. We’re not playing tight as a group.

“There’s no excuses, we were beaten by a side who wanted it more than we did.”

James, Pfeiffer and Payne all tried their hearts out, James going blow for blow with Clouston in a the see-sawing final term.

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