Saturday 14 August 2010

Mt Gravatt are in the unusual position of being the best team in the competition but unable to finish any higher than fourth on the QAFL premiership table after running over the top of Southport at Fankhauser Reserve today.

The Vultures won their sixth game in succession, including victories against all teams above them, with a dynamic last quarter into the breeze.

When Southport kicked three of the last four goals of the third term to draw within seven points at the last change, the signs looked ominous for Mt Gravatt.

Yet the Vultures totally dominated the final half-hour to win 15.13 (103) to 11.11 (77).

It was Southport’s fourth loss in five games and had coach Craig Crowley again questioning his side’s genuine feeling for one another.

The Sharks have been in the contest at the final change in each of those games, but lost on every occasion.

They were again soundly beaten around the clearances, with Mt Gravatt controlling the game for longer periods in the opening three terms.

Mt Gravatt won because of their watertight defence and ability to choke up the midfield.

Adam Tarrant did an outstanding job on leading goalkicker Cleve Hughes, holding him to a solitary goal, although he had plenty of support from Jake Furfaro.

“He kept on putting himself between the ball and Cleve,” lamented Sharks coach Craig Crowley.

Mt Gravatt’s defensive pressure never let-up, their tackling pressure forcing Southport into numerous uncharacteristic errors.

Damien Steven proved the real circuit-breaker for Mt Gravatt, constantly find space on a ground that very few others could.

Steven booted four crucial goals from the midfield, working off both Matthew Payne and Darren Pfeiffer.

He was ably supported by Michael Hamill, who were solid early and explosive in the second half.

Southport stayed in touch til the final break mainly through the efforts of their defence, with Kurt Niklaus unpassable at full-back early, Ben Caputi dominating Darryl White at half-back, and Darren O’Brien engaging in a fascinating contest with John James.

O’Brien won the early battle with his rebound despite James still doing some good things, while James was electrifying in the second half and proved a gamebreaker in the final term.

James had a number of goal assists and his tackling was a feature, creating a number of goals for teammates.

Southport kicked the opening goal without the ball even being bounced in the middle after Tom Tarrant gave away a free kick off the ball to Matthew Fowler.

Tarrant learnt quickly from the mistake and became a good player for his side, despite being caught in possession on the ball on a number of occasions.

The Sharks led 3.0 to 1.2 early, before Mt Gravatt got into the game courtesy of Ryan Thompson, who was a livewire across half-forward in the opening term.

Thomson continued to bob up at the right time for his team and his input was telling.

Daniel Savage was also prominent in the opening term and was more than serviceable for the remainder.

The Sharks did have their winners, with Adam Devine handsomely winning the first quarter in his tagging role on Ash Evans and maintaining the upper hand throughout.

Danny Wise started brilliantly but faded out of the game after halftime, while Pfeiffer was a constant threat and made his nomination for mark of the year with a big fly over a pack on centre wing in the second term.

Mt Gravatt kicked 15 points clear eight minutes into the second term, but Southport got back into the game through the work of Payne and the defensive group.

They struggled to find an avenue to goal, being too reliant on banging the ball long to Hughes, and it took 26 minutes for them to register a goal in the second quarter, a drought of 46 minutes in all.

They didn’t help themselves by kicking eight consecutive behinds during that period, although both teams struggled to judge the wind at the showgrounds end of the ground in particular.

The Vultures led by four points at the long break and extended that to 20 points midway through the third term, with Caputi playing a lone hand against the constant attacks.

However, they hit the Vultures on the rebound against the run of play, with Wise kicking a superb captain’s goal from the boundary after the siren to give his side the momentum going into the last break.

Bill Cleary went forward again at the start of the fourth term after being well beaten there early and responded with the first goal of the final term.

Southport kicked two goals in a minute to get within three points, but then the Vultures took complete control.

Vulture Steven, who vied for best afield honours, was always confident of victory.

“We  still thought we could get home because we had a lot of run left in our legs,” he said of his thoughts at the last change.

Steven added that his side’s tackling pressure had played a key part in the victory.

“That’s something we need to do to win games and we did it really well today,” he said.

Crowley was bitterly disappointed with his side’s fourth loss in five matches.

“We were appalling around the clearances,” he said. “For the midfield quality that we’ve got in our side, they’re not hungry enough in the middle of the ground.

“ We don’t protect the blokes who are going for the ball hard enough.”

Crowley gave credit to the opposition.

“Their run off half-back was great,” he said.

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