By Peter Cornwall
South Adelaide is still in the finals mix, ending a run of four successive losses to overcome Central District by 30 points on Saturday at X Convenience Oval.
The Panthers set up the win with a withering burst of seven unanswered goals from midway in the opening quarter until early in the second but had to withstand a strong Bulldogs fightback in the third term before banking the two crucial premiership points. Jarrad Wright’s men moved within a win of fifth side Norwood, which faces third-placed Sturt on Sunday, August 11 on the last day of the split round.
Dual Magarey Medallist Joel Cross played a key role in South’s seventh win of the season – to go with two draws – picking up 15 kicks, 16 handballs, nine marks, six tackles and a goal. But it was not just how often he had the ball at the Ponderosa, it was what he did with it, his class, composure and finishing skills shining out even under intense pressure. Abe Davis was strong in the clinches and dangerous around the goals, Malcolm Karpany set up plenty of opportunities for his team-mates, Nick Liddle had his share of the ball and rebounding defender Joseph Haines continued the outstanding campaign that saw him earn a place in the State side that won in Western Australia.
There was little surprise Schiller brother Travis (28) and Jarrod (25) had most touches for Central, while experienced Trent Goodrem and Kyle Jenner played key roles in the second-half fightback but the Bulldogs’ disappointing first half left them with too much ground to make up and with just four wins from 16 games for the year.
Having breathed some life into a stuttering season with successive wins against the Eagles and West, the Doggies looked like they might continue their momentum as Luke Habel booted the first goal of the game with a long set shot at the eight-minute-mark. But Central’s hopes of farewelling seven-time premiership coach Roy Laird with a run of wins soon were in tatters.
A three-goal burst in just four minutes broke the game open for the Panthers, Ben Heaslip snapping an impressive goal after snaring the ball from a ruck contest, Sam Overall marking strongly in the goalmouth, then Liam Fitt evading a tackle and threading the ball through with a left-footer on the run. Time-on goals to Davis and Cross gave South a 23-point quarter-time break, Davis steering the ball through from the pocket from a downfield free kick and Cross, who made his mark on the game with 11 disposals in the first term, converting from centre half-forward after being found by Overall.
Powerhouse Davis snapped his second after a Tom Whittlesea handball to start the second term and by the time classy Liddle booted a goal around the corner at the seven-minute-mark the game was already looking in South’s keeping, leading by an impressive 35 points.
Central, which had shown plenty of fight in a five-point loss to Sturt and comeback wins against the Eagles and Bloods, clamped down on a Panthers blitz that had seen them bang on seven goals in 24 minutes but, typical of the Dogs’ day, Troy Menzel’s after-the-siren shot for goal missed and they trailed 1.4 to 8.3 at the main break. South led disposals 188-132, marks 49-39, clearances 21-14 and inside-50s 22-15 in a dominant first half but the Dogs’ fighting spirit soon came to the fore in the third quarter.
Fraser Fort’s long goal in the second minute broke a Bulldogs drought that had seen them goalless for 45 minutes of footy. The Elzabeth crowd was starting to make some noise when State under-18 Corey Durdin snapped a left-footer, then Habel found big Jonathan Marsh in the goalmouth and he converted at the 15-minute-mark. As the Doggies continued to push, a superb kick from Fort through the midfield ended up with a Travis Schiller goal. When Hoskin rammed one through from in the goalsquare after some great roving from
ruckman Marsh in time-on, Central incredibly was within 14 points.
The one thing the Doggies didn’t want was to concede a late goal but Fitt made it hard from them with a deadly shot from 45m after a mark. When Tom Whittlesea opened the final quarter with a long goal the Panthers had withstood Central’s charge and finals were still very much on the agenda for the Noarlunga club.
SOUTH 5.1 8.3 9.8 11.13 (79)
CENTRAL 1.2 1.4 6.5 7.7 (49)
South: Joel Cross 31, Nick Liddle 27, Abe Davis 24, Malcolm Karpany 22, Joseph Haines 21, Ben Haren, Ben Heaslip, Matthew Rose, Hayden Sampson 19.
Central: Travis Schiller 28, Jarrod Schiller 25, Trent Goodrem, Kyle Jenner 21, Wyatt Patterson, Darcy Pisani 18.
South: Abe Davis, Sam Overall, Liam Fitt, Tom Whittlesea 2, Ben Heaslip, Joel Cross, Nick Liddle.
Central: Troy Menzel, Justin Hoskin, Corey Durdin, Fraser Fort, Luke Habel, Jonathan Marsh, Travis Schiller.