Giants 15 vs Eagles 53
The first game of the tournament was between the Giants, coached by Mick Coultard, and Shannon Wall’s Eagles. Both teams were looking to impress early, but it was the Eagles who dominated. They managed to keep possession early with clever kicks and aggression chasing contested balls. The first half belonged to them, with the Giants only managing to score a few single pointers. Right on the stroke of half time Maia Pene scored after taking a classy mark.
The Eagles shrieked with enthusiasm when their half time huddle broke up, and they set about attacking at a furious pace. They made their advantage count, slotting goals and behinds almost at will. The Giants struggled to move the ball forward, and even when they did turnovers proved costly. One of the highlights of the match was a storming counter attacking run from McKenzie Haugh right from the Eagles defensive line, before he sent a long punt into the safe hands of Hamish Ware. Upon making the mark Ware calmly kicked the goal.
Caleb Manukuo spared some of the blushes for the Giants, managing to score twice late in the second half. His second goal came after a superb piece of teamwork, with Ben Middleton marking and then distributing to Manukuo with pinpoint accuracy. The game was by now out of reach for the Giants though. A late Eagles goal underscored that. Waylon Baker took a beautiful mark, then unselfishly handballed to Walter Fifita to step his defender and score. The match ended 53-15.
Eagles: Mansson(2) Fifita (2)Ware, Baker, Pene, Haugh
Eagles 23 vs Suns 31
The Eagles had a fast turnaround for their second match. This time they played the Suns, coached by Warwick Kain. The benefits of fresh legs were evident at the start, the Suns maintained a furious tempo to take control of the match. They made their advantage count, with Kyle Smith marking a wayward opposition kick to set up an easy goal. The Suns pushed on, with Bradley Moafanua slamming a huge punt through for a goal from the deep. The Eagles gradually found their feet, and managed to get on attack more by the end of the first half. 24-7 was the score at half time.
The second half started a lot more evenly, with the teams trading free kick goals. No points were scored for a long period in this half, as both teams worked hard on defence. A cold wind chilled hands, making marking more difficult. Kieran Brunel broke the deadlock with a goal from a tight angle. From there the Eagles busted a gut to get back into the game, but were repeatedly held in check by the Suns, who kept their composure admirably. The mark of the day came from Samuel McDougall, who managed a stunning diving effort late in the game to keep control of the ball for the Suns. The match ended 31-23.
Eagles: Cheyne, Fifita, Brunel
Suns: Smith, Moafanua, Ridge, Ah Kuoi
Suns 54 vs Giants 7
The Giants were out to get their first win of the tournament in the first game of day 2. It was the Suns though who struck first, with Sam Johnston finding himself lightly defended in front of goal. He made no mistake. Ward found himself even more unmarked a few minutes later and banged over the Suns’ second goal. Both teams kept the intensity up through until the end of the half, but the Giants had a tough time getting out of their defensive zone. The half ended 15-0.
The team talk obviously had an effect on the Giants, who came charging out after the break. However the Suns held on and counterattacked, and Samuel McDougall showed his worth with a fantastic mark under pressure, converting the goal. He stayed involved, putting in a lovely punt pass to set up Bradley Moafanua. Keanu White almost managed to knock over a goalpost when he jumped into it to take a mark. His kick to score from five metres out sailed far over the fence.
The Suns were practically scoring at will by the end. The Giants got some late consolation points, with James McNicol jumping high to take a mark right in front. He got it over safely to score the first goal for his team. It just wasn’t to be for the Giants though, and they couldn’t get back in the game. The final score was 54-7.
Suns: Johnston (2), Ward, McDougall, Moafanua, Gibson, White, Smith,
Eagles 35 vs Giants 8
The first match of the day for the Eagles began at a cracking pace, though without the execution and accuracy required to score points. Cori Albert was a constant presence in the midfield for the Giants. The Eagles took the first goal, Waylon Baker cleaning up some loose play. Cori Albert responded for the Giants, getting them on the scoreboard after a great mark. The first half ended with some combative play near the Giants’ defensive line. Scott Manson managed to get possession and flicked it through the posts right on the hooter. The score was 14-6 to the Eagles.
The Eagles struck first after the break, with Waylon Baker using the wind perfectly to send a huge kick through the posts. Mitchell Te Whata committed fiercely to a contested mark, then took his opportunity to score. The Giants pushed hard late in the second half, keeping control of territory. They struggled to turn it in to points though, and McKenzie Haugh scored the last goal of the game with a monstrous punt. The final score was 35-8.
Eagles: Manson, Haugh (2), Fifita, Te Whata,
Suns 20 vs Eagles 26
The Suns were out to extend their dominant streak in the competition, though it was the Eagles who made the early running. Walter Fifita scored first to put the Eagles in front. Neither team was willing to give an inch, and every point was hard earned. The Eagles put together a beautiful flowing move, with Fifita putting in a creative handpass to McKenzie Haugh, who finished it off. A scrappy play was cleaned up by Mannson, who grubbered it over the line for another goal. The Eagles capitalised on their chances and led 19-1 at the break.
The huddle was an interesting place for the Suns players, not used to going into the break behind. They seemed confident of getting back into the game, and some perfect long passing put Connor Ridge in with a chance. He banged it over from a tricky angle. The Eagles then tried to lock down their defence. The Suns kept tenaciously battering away, before Ridge scored his second with a huge high punt. Another goal went over with only a few minutes to play, Bradley Moafanua finishing off the move. The score now stood at 20-19 to the Eagles.
The Eagles got back down the right end of the field, and only some desperate spoiling from the Suns kept them out. The game hung in the balance, with both teams looking for ways to score a crucial goal. Alex Barnsley was a titan on defence for the Eagles, and set up Walter Fifita for a late goal. It proved decisive, as the final action of the game was a behind for the Suns. The most exciting game of the tournament finished 26-20 to the Eagles.
Eagles: Fifita (2) Haugh, Mansson,
Suns: Ridge (2) Moafanua
Suns 27 vs Giants 53
The final game was must win for both teams. The Suns needed another win to get into contention to win, and the Giants needed to get revenge after game 3. Jimmy Little scored early to put the Giants ahead, and suddenly the whole team was playing great football. Kyle Smith had other ideas though, using the wind to perfection to roll a goal through for the Suns. The game swung back and forth, with the Giants getting back on attack. Jarryd Taig took a huge mark under pressure and kicked a goal from an acute angle to win back the lead for the Giants. Another goal soon followed for Taig, and now the Giants were well in front.
Straight away though it was cut down by Louis Ward, who slammed in a goal from a long way out. Connor Ridge got them even closer with another quick goal. Right on half time Jimmy Little scored again, to push the lead to 7. After an intense first half, the score stood at 27-20 to the Giants. They had worked hard to not let the wind disadvantage count against them.
The Giants were in no mood to let their lead slip away, and right after half time Levi Inglis used the wind to his advantage to kick a flawless goal. The pressure was relentless and they kept the Suns pinned back in their half, winding down the clock and racking up single points. The Suns hit back through Connor Ridge, but within minutes Gray Samuels had scored to consolidate the lead. Jimmy Little cleaned up some scrappy play to score another, and the Giants were powering ahead. Cori Albert got himself into the game with some brutal tackling to disrupt the Suns. A late goal for Tia Owen put them even further in front. The Suns had been completely demolished by a Giants team that desperately wanted the win. The final score was 53-27.
Suns: Smith, Ward (2) Ridge
Giants: Little (3) Taig (2), Inglis, Samuels, Owen
Reports by Alex Braae for AFLNZ