In one of the closest Grand Finals in Auckland AFL history, the University Blues have gone back to back and won the 2019 title, edging the North Shore Tigers by 4 points in a thrilling match at North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
Fantastic conditions and a great crowd were on hand to witness one of the games of the season as the University Blues and North Shore Tigers battled it out for the 2019 Auckland AFL Premiership.
This was always going to be a tight contest with both teams coming off the back of strong performances in their respective semi-finals and the teams sharing the spoils with a win each during the regular season.
The game started with a bang when the Tigers broke away from congested play and kicked the first goal within the opening 2 minutes however; Uni hit straight back as expected and the battle lines had been drawn from the get go.
In a physical match, each team were looking to assert their dominance with strong contact and slick ball movement.
The Tigers midfield of Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, Jake Tucker and Bryn Barnes Webb were dominant early on.
The game was very much back and forth with both teams unable to break away at the first change but late in the quarter, Ben Hick popped up in the forward line and kicked an important goal to swing the momentum Uni’s way.
University held a small lead at every change and the midfield of Liam Beattie, Seb Serrano and Pat Landy worked hard all day as Uni kept their composure in the second term.
With the margin still very close at the main break, the Tigers regathered and came out in the third with a renewed purpose. The plan was executed well by the Tigers as they managed to strangle Uni on the wide flanks and shut down the stoppages.
Heading into the final quarter the margin was now less than a goal and the game was far from over. The Tigers managed to lock the ball in their attacking half but the Uni defense held strong.
With minutes remaining, North Shore were awarded a free mark at the top of the 50. The decision to play on and attempt to improve the position proved costly as the kick was intercepted by the Univeristy defense.
The last two minutes were a tussle as the Tigers threw everything forward in an effort to claim the win but the clock ran out and handed the University Blues their second title in as many years.
Ben Daly had a terrific second half and was important for controlling the tempo of the game to Uni’s advantage.
Blues midfielder Nic Holdsworth was judged the best player on the field and took home the ‘Wells Medal’ for 2019.
“A great effort today by the team to win the decisive moments, put points on the board and then defend that advantage throughout the game. Some standout efforts by certain players but just brilliant commitment by everyone to hold off a tenacious Tigers outfit.” Howard Gilbert, University President.
“Congratulations to University, it was a very good battle today. Very proud of the Tigers. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the biscuits today but we fought to the very end and we look forward to meeting them again next season and building on what we have done this season. Thank you to everyone at the club for a great 2019 campaign – supporters, families, volunteers and players. We have a great culture at the club and I know we will back next year bigger and better.” North Shore Captain, Dan Pearce.
The Mt Roskill Saints won the reserves Grand Final as they stormed home to win by 3 goals over the North Shore Tigers and secured the McKay-Rogers Shield for 2019.
That concludes the Auckland AFL 2019 season.
The Auckland AFL executive would like to thank all the players, coaches, umpires, volunteers and supporters for their contributions over the season and look forward to welcoming you all back in 2020.
Story – AAFL.co.nz