Having watched Sturt’s first two matches, combined with the small Unley Oval, we knew this week would be a highly contested match with many restarts and numbers around the ball. We wanted to be strong in the contest and not over use the ball in tight.
After a slightly sluggish first 10 minutes, I thought we got on top in the first quarter. We were strong at restarts and were able to lock the ball in our forward half with good team defense. I would have liked to take more advantage of this and we need to polish our entries in f50 for this to happen. With scores even at the 22minute mark, a poor 5 minute period cost us three goals. Twice beaten in aerial contests in B50m and an errant handball are things we can improve.
I thought we fought back well in the 2nd quarter. We again set up well behind the ball and were able to cause skill errors in the opposition. Although it was still even at stoppages, it was our ability create repeat I50m entries, that was telling. The game was still very tight and congested so it was important that we manufacture scoring opportunities from contested ball. Murray Waite had a fantastic period here and kicked two wonderful goals. It was also pleasing to have us transition the ball from deep in B50m, ending in a goal to Isaac Johnson. These contrasting avenues to goal, reinforces our ability and need to score in multiple ways.
We went in the main break four points down. I was please with how we came out after half-time and we kept the pressure on the opposition. We kicked three behinds however before we could finish with a major. It was great to see Ed Allan finish off some hard work and celebrate his first goal for West Adelaide. This put us in front at the 19minute mark of the quarter however Sturt responded quickly with two goals. The second to Kirkwood displayed his ability and was also a reminder for our backs how we need to mind such players at every restart. Overall, another extremely even and competitive quarter.
With an eight point deficit going into the last term, we kept didn’t feel the need to make many changes to our structures or line-up. We very much felt that maintaining our pressure and defense was the key. Sturt got an early goal after we lost two important marking contests. We will learn from these. Now trailing by 14points, we continued to dig deep and create our opportunities. I was really pleased that our work rate continued to be strong as did our structures. Something that has not always happened in such positions in recent times. A goal to Riley Thilthorpe and a ripper to Isaac Johnson saw us even the score at the eight minute mark. Again we continued to fight but we just couldn’t get repeat goals. With 5 minutes to go, we trailed by a point but I felt we just slightly lost ascendancy at the stoppages. We lost front position and gave away some costly free kicks. We were unable to get the ball back in our half of the ground despite all our efforts, Sturt finished with a late goal. A final losing margin of eight points.
The players are bitterly disappointed. Effort and concentration was there for almost every minute of the game, which is a step forward from round 1 and 2. Overall, Sturt’s ability to make scoring opportunities from 50/50 and contested ball was slightly better than ours. We had more I50m entries and more scoring shots for the day. If we can take more of our opportunities and clean up some of our F50m entries, I believe the result could have been a little different.
We had three debutants who all had strong contributions. Well done to Mitch Duval, Ed Allan and Stuart Taverner. With Andre Parrella a very late withdrawal due to illness, I was so pleased to see Stuart take on the ruck duties and more than hold his own. Isaac Johnson continued his impressive form with three goals and nine tackles at half forward. I thought Brett Turner had his best game for the year in the midfield and Jordan Boyle continues to impress with his work rate and ball use.