In what turned out to be an exciting contest between two high quality teams, Rowville penetrated Blackburn’s defence when it mattered to secure a 9.14 (68) to 10.20 (80) win over the Panthers at Morton Park.
Sunny skies greeted both sides after early overcast clouds. Matthew Robinson kicked four goals in a forward line performance that gave Rowville the edge in the second half, but the tale of the first half was the polar opposite.
Neither side got a significant leg up in the first 10 minutes under sunny skies, before Robinson put Rowville on the board. There was no advantage at the stoppages, as Blackburn pressed forward but the forwards were stopped in their tracks by some fine spoiling from the Hawks.
Chris Clay showed some speed for Blackburn, before Heath O’Farrell (two goals) was able to put a major on the board for the home side, and at quarter the time the margin was just six points.
Blackburn started the second quarter with a rapid fire burst of goals from O’Farrell, Jake Hammond and Clay to hit a two goal buffer, the largest of the first half. Rowville skipper Matthew Stanley began to stamp his mark on the game in the Hawks attacking area, and they kept pace with Blackburn the entire way.
Nik Schoenmakers was outstanding in the ruck, and it was his work at the stoppages that allowed the Hawks to be so threatening moving into attack. Anthony Fagan took a hard knock from the Balwyn defence, but bounced back quickly as the margin was even smaller at half time, just four points.
Neither side was giving an inch, which became the catalyst for a stagnant third quarter. Missed opportunities and kicks out on the full meant it became a “game of points” until Nathan Hicks was beautifully assisted by Alex Frawley to break the goal drought.
Clay hit back with his second, but Blackburn stayed just behind the eight ball at three quarter time. Panthers coach Peter Banfield drilled the message into his players at the last break that they simply could not afford to turn it over so much in the forward 50.
The seesaw continued, with both sides slotting goals within minutes of each other, and those on the sidelines were vocal. Sam Hudson nudged one through from the pack, followed by Fagan with excellent ball skill, and scores were level.
Rowville seemed to be waiting in the wings, as the momentum swing came fast and took Blackburn by surprise. Two rapid goals to the Hawks had Blackburn fans screaming to hit back, but Max Otten missed with less than 10 minutes to go.
Hicks kept Blackburn’s hopes alive with a point-blank miss, but it was Robinson who delivered the killer blow, before Hudson consolidated to keep the final score line looking respectable.
Crucially, Blackburn had the firepower up forward, but Rowville’s last line of defence was enough at the important moments to have Blackburn pushing forward under pressure.
Peter Bastinac, the Rowville Hawks coach, said he and his troops were ready to take on the conditions.
“We planned for one end footy, with the wind favouring one end…I thought we adjusted and played to our plan and strategy really well.”
Rowville take on East Ringwood next week, who went down to Vermont by 80 points in round 11 (this week’s action), but Bastinac said that they will still treat next week with aggression.
“We’ll go back over our notes…we rate them as a really strong club, they’ve got some good players all over the ground that we’ll have to put some time into, so we’ll watch their game footage from today.”
Bastinac highlighted Stanley, Jay Kinder and Jake Ryall as some of the Hawks best players, and applauded the efforts of Schoenmakers and Mitch Garner in the ruck.
After East Ringwood, Rowville will have a week off and then tackle Balwyn at home on July 19. The potential to make finals on this form is there, but there are very talented teams ahead of them who will not let their positions go.
Blackburn: 1.5, 5.7, 6.10, 9.14 (68)
Rowville: 2.5, 5.11, 6.15, 10.20 (80)
Goals: Blackburn: Hammond, Clay, O’Farrell, Hudson 2, Fagan
Rowville: Robinson 4, Hicks, Crozier 2, Garner, Kinder