STURT WIN GRAND FINAL IN THRILLING FINISH

Published on: Sep 24 2017 | Author: Zac Milbank |

Sturt has clung on by the barest of margins to win a classic Macca’s League Grand Final by just one point against Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

In front of the largest SANFL Grand Final crowd – 39,813 – since Port trumped the Double Blues in 1998, Marty Mattner’s brave charges managed to hold off a fast-finishing Magpies outfit in one of the most thrilling finishes to a title-decider.

Earning their first back-to-back titles since 1969-70 and 15th premiership overall, the Double Blues capped off a fine season which began with a 0-4 win-loss count and didn’t result in an opening win until Round 6.

Leading at every change of the pulsating contest, Sturt seemed to have the Pies’ spirit broken at the final break when midfielder Aidan Riley kicked the only goal of the term at the 25th minute mark with a fine snap from stoppage.

It gave Sturt a handy 17-point buffer at three-quarter time, which was significant given the tense nature of the absorbing battle.

But Chad Cornes’ outfit – desperate to end the longest premiership drought (17 years) in club history – refused to lie down, starting the final term with plenty of energy and zest.

Port goalsneak Jake Neade got things rolling with a fine goal on the run which bounced through before Brendon Ah Chee kicked a beauty on his left foot from the boundary line.

And once Tom Gray converted a set shot from just 20m out on a slight angle, the scores were level 13 minutes into the fourth quarter.

Not to be denied, Sturt regained the lead once Kory Beard kicked truly in the goalsquare after receiving a free kick and 25m penalty. James Battersby followed up with the golden point three minutes later to give Sturt a 7-point break 21 minutes in.

Ah Chee got his side back within a point when he kicked a pressure set shot from 45m after receiving a free kick for being infringed in a marking contest and the Double Blues led by the slimmest of margins.

It led to a tense final few minutes with the siren sounding with the ball locked inside the Double Blues’ forward 50m arc.

This ensured Sturt would record just the third time in 44 years a team has recovered from a Qualifying Final loss to win a flag, following the Double Blues of 1976 and Eagles of 2011.

Sturt defender Fraser Evans was a fitting winner of the Jack Oatey Medal, playing an outstanding defender’s game by not only blanketing his direct opponent Brett Eddy but also earning 13 disposals, five marks and three tackles as well as nine rebound 50s.

Last year’s Jack Oatey Medallist, Jack Stephens, was also a tower of strength in defence, repelling many attack and taking intercept marks as the Double Blues back six absorbed a truckload of pressure from the Magpies.

Skipper Zane Kirkwood had a blistering first half to finish with 22 disposals while James Battersby and Aidan Riley did a power of work at the stoppages winning clearances and laying 21 tackles between them.

Veteran Scott McMahon had 15 touches and several important moments while Josh Hone also had 10 tackles and kicked a goal.

It was a painful defeat for Port Adelaide, ensuring its longest drought in club history (17 years) would continue after its seven-game winning streak.

The Magpies were never really able to get their trademark running game going until early in the fourth term, before the Double Blues were able to lock the game down yet again.

Midfielder Brendon Ah Chee didn’t have the most disposals for his side but made every one count, including two goals in the final term which almost pinched the flag for his team.

Jimmy Toumpas started the game strongly across half-back to finish with a team high 29 disposals while Riley Bonner provided drive from defence and Will Snelling battled hard with a sore hand to lay 14 tackles and collect 23 disposals.

Captain Steven Summerton was unable to get his fairytale premiership but it was through no fault of his own, chalking up 22 disposals, eight tackles and a crucial goal assist in the last term.

 

 

But it wasn’t enough to overcome the all-conquering Sturt, which became the first SANFL club to win the Under-18, Reserves and Macca’s League premiership in the same season.

MACCA’S LEAGUE GRAND FINAL SCOREBOARD

Sturt  4.1  5.4  6.6  7.8  (50)
Port  2.3  3.4  3.7  7.7 (49)

BEST – Sturt: F. Evans, Stephens, Kirkwood, Riley, Battersby, McMahon, Sumner, P.Wilson.
Port: Ah Chee, Toumpas, Neade, Snelling, Summerton, Atley, Bonner.

GOALS – Sturt: Beard 2, M. Evans, Hone, Harms, Sutcliffe, Riley.
Port: Neade, T. Gray, Ah Chee 2, Lobbe.

UMPIRES – Corey Bowen, Toby Medlin, Giles Lewis.

CROWD – 39,813 at Adelaide Oval

JACK OATEY MEDAL – Fraser Evans (Sturt)

 

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