Metro downs Allies, Country falls to SA
Vic Metro is in the box seat to take out the NAB AFL U18 Championships title after defeating the Allies in a hard-fought battle at Etihad Stadium on Friday by 14 points, 10.14 (74) to 8.12 (60).
Metro - proudly supported by Dairy Australia - is undefeated after three rounds of the Championships and only needs to defeat WA at Simonds Stadium on Wednesday to secure its first national title since 2012.
Metro stormed to a 26-point lead at quarter time on the back of two goals each to Sam Hayes (Eastern Ranges) and Pat Kerr (Oakleigh Chargers), but the Allies rallied to hit the front early in the third term despite having a lot less of the ball than their opponents.
Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Kobe Mutch (19 disposals, five tackles) and Murray Bushrangers tall forward Zac Sproule (two goals) were important for the Allies as they went into the final stanza one point in front, but Metro controlled proceedings from there on. Hayes’ third goal and then majors to Oakleigh Chargers pair Jack Higgins and Josh Daicos midway through the quarter set up the match-winning margin before Eastern's Callum Brown (pictured) sealed the victory in the closing minutes.
Ranges captain Dylan Clarke again found the ball at will, recording 26 disposals and five clearances, while Sandringham Dragons duo Andrew McGrath (23 disposals, six clearances) and Corey Lyons (20 disposals, one goal) were influential when it mattered. Northern Knights vice-captain Luke Bunker worked hard for 23 disposals and five inside-50s, and Oakleigh backman Jordan Ridley was a rock in defence with 18 disposals and seven marks.
Earlier in the day at Etihad Stadium, Vic Country rallied late but wasn’t able to reel in South Australia and post its first win of the Championships, going down by 11 points.
SA booted six goals to two in the first quarter, allowing the Croweaters to withstand five unanswered Country goals in the final term and prevail 11.10 (76) to 9.11 (65).
Country - proudly supported by Dairy Australia - recorded three more inside-50s than SA for the match but was beaten around the contests for much of the first three quarters. It threatened to unleash an unlikely comeback reminiscent of Vic Metro’s late heroics in Adelaide last week, but a 40-point deficit at the last change was too great to overcome.
North Ballarat Rebels midfielder Hugh McCluggage was a standout again for Country with 17 disposals and three goals, Gippsland Power forward Ben Ainsworth played more through the midfield to record a team-high 20 disposals and also kick a major, while Bendigo Pioneers skipper Joseph Atley was relentless in the contests with 18 disposals, six tackles and a goal of his own.
Geelong Falcons bottom-ager James Worpel finished the match well with 18 disposals and a late goal, and Murray Bushrangers on-baller Will Brodie also had 18 disposals as well as a team-high four clearances.
Country will now look to its final-round clash with the Allies at Simonds Stadium on Wednesday to log the first victory of its campaign.
VIC METRO 5.1 5.6 6.9 10.14 (74)
ALLIES 0.5 4.7 6.10 8.12 (60)
Metro goalkickers: Hayes 3, Kerr 2, Venables, Lyons, Higgins, Daicos, Brown
Metro disposals: Clarke 26, Bunker 23, McGrath 23, Higgins 21, Lyons 20, Ridley 18
SA 6.0 9.4 11.8 11.10 (76)
VIC COUNTRY 2.0 3.5 4.10 9.11 (65)
Country goalkickers: McCluggage 3, Battle 2, Ainsworth, Atley, Fowler, Worpel
Country disposals: Ainsworth 20, Worpel 18, Atley 18, Brodie 18, McCluggage 17, Berry 14