By ZAC MILBANK
Norwood secured its third successive win by less than a goal when it held off a desperate Sturt by five points at The Parade on Friday night.
With star midfielder Mitch Grigg on report for allegedly striking Sturt’s Steven Slimming in the third term, the Redlegs were able to hang tough during the frantic final moments.
Jarrod Cotton’s charges have now defeated Glenelg (five points), Central (three points) and the Double Blues in heart-stopping fashion, with the visitors unlucky not to pinch the premiership points in Round 3.
Two goals in as many minutes to returning premiership utility Ed Smart had the hosts in front by 13 points at the seven-minute mark of the final term, which in the contest of the dour struggle seemed a significant margin.
But the inaccurate Double Blues, who led from late in the second quarter until two minutes after the final change, would come again as Josh Hone positioned himself nicely to crumb and snap truly over his shoulder nearly 14 minutes in.
With the margin back to one straight kick, Sturt was dominating general play as the Redlegs tried to maintain possession in their defensive 50m arc.
Hone looked set to provide the leveling goal but was caught holding the ball by Norwood defender Alex Georgiou, just 20 seconds after Sturt bigman Tom Read wasn’t paid an overhead mark within scoring range.
Former Redleg Mark Evans then had his chance to put Sturt back in front, only to miss his snap shot from 15m on a tough angle.
Less than a minute later, Norwood ruckman Sam Baulderstone took a relieving chest mark deep in his team’s defensive zone to defuse the situation, with the siren sounding soon after much to the delight of the Redlegs faithful.
Norwood’s 100-gamers Matt Panos (27 disposals) and Lewis Johnston (25 disposals) led the way on the stats sheet but there remains significant concern for superstar Grigg, who will come under the scrutiny of SANFL’s Match Review Panel after allegedly striking Slimming in the 23rd minute of the third stanza.
In contention to become the first player since South Adelaide’s Dan Moriarty (1919, 1920 and 1921) to win a third consecutive Magarey Medal, Grigg’s frustration boiled over as he sent Slimming to the ground on the half-forward flank.
With captain Jace Bode, midfielder Matthew Nunn and triple premiership forward Brady Dawe (late withdrawal with a hip complaint) among the names absent, Norwood will be pleased to bank the premiership points despite the spectacle being far from pretty.
Second-gamer Dylan Stephens was a positive for the Redlegs with his calm head shining through under pressure when disposing of the ball by hand or foot.
Sturt now falls to a 1-2 win-loss record after three rounds, with Friday night’s loss a bitter result given it had five more scoring shots than the Legs.
Captain Zane Kirkwood and defender Sam Colquhoun led the way with 29 disposals each while former Docker Danyle Pearce had 23 and six tackles.
But the visitors had seven players with fewer than 10 disposals compared to Norwood’s two, indicating a more even output would have been beneficial.
Sturt will now travel to the Bay to take on Glenelg on Good Friday while the Redlegs will host arch-rival Port Adelaide next Thursday night.
NORWOOD 1.5 1.9 5.9 8.10 (58)
STURT 1.5 2.10 5.15 6.17 (53)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Norwood: Panos 27, L. Johnston 25, Grigg, McKenzie, Z. Richards 22, Barry 21, Hamilton 17, Gerloff 16.
Sturt: Kirkwood, Colquhoun 29, Pearce 23, Riley 19, F. Evans 17, Crocker 16, Slimming 15.
GOALS – Norwood: Smart 3, Shenton 2, Abbott, Bampton, Barry.
Sturt: Condon, J. Hone, Patullo, Riley, Slimming, Sutcliffe.