The Sandringham Dragons have continued their winning start to the season with another come-from-behind victory against the Northern Knights at a soggy Preston City Oval on Saturday.
Inaccuracy plagued both sides, but the Dragons took more opportunities when it mattered, finishing 6.10 46 to Northern’s 5.11 41.
The Dragons opened the scoring early through Charlie McKay, slotting a goal from a tight angle near the boundary line.
In spite of heavy rain, the Dragons continued to go for their marks and used the ball cleanly. Lachlan Riley took two critical intercept marks to stop forward thrusts, whilst Josh Sinn’s foot skills off halfback threatened to break the game open.
In what was a highlight of the quarter, Luca Macnab saved a certain goal with a smother in the goalsquare, reminiscent of Heath Shaw in the 2010 Grand Final replay.
One goal each in the first quarter saw Sandy lead by two behinds at the first break.
As quickly as the rain backed off at quarter time, it returned heavier than ever early in the second quarter. And as the ground became wetter, the scoring dried-up.
The Knights kicked the only two goals of the quarter for a 10-point lead as Sandy could only manage three behinds. But after finishing their previous game against Oakleigh with a head of steam following a slow start, confidence never wavered in their ability to chase the game from behind.
Jacob Edwards broke the run of three consecutive goals for the Knights by converting from directly infront after a towering contested mark. It was followed by vice-captain Campbell Chesser adding another from almost the exact same position.
Sandy took the momentum into the final term, holding the Knights goalless in the third quarter to take a two-point lead.
The two sides traded goals early in the last to setup a grand-stand finish.
Enter Eren Soylemez.
In what was an encore performance from last week’s final quarter heroics, the clever forward kicked a roving goal to extend the lead to seven points before drifting-in from the side to take a strong contested mark, kicking his second in the space of just a few minutes, to push the gap to 13.
And whilst Northern were able to answer-back in the final minute, the margin proved too much to overcome, with Sandy holding-on to win by five points.
Despite lamenting another slow start, Coach Jackson Kornberg was proud of his team’s ability to overcome adversity.
“To be able to fight from behind, in a close game, particularly towards the dying stages of the game in the last two weeks, and to get two wins shows us that we can win in congested and contested situations,” Kornberg said.
“There’s certainly some things from a gamestyle point of view that we’d like to improve on as we move forward, but their effort today, and the last two games really, has been terrific.”
Like last week, Kornberg was particularly proud of the ability to wrestle the momentum off the opposition and get the game on their terms.
“I think the main overriding theme was that they just got a bit more composed with the footy, were able to find some more possessions and not just kick it long to contests,” he said. “And because of that, we started changing angles. We got the game back on our terms a little bit more which is how we want to perform.”
Skipper Darby Hipwell’s run and carry up and down the wings was crucial in linking the backs and forwards, while Luke Nankervis was creative as ever at half-forward.
Speaking on Hipwell, Kornberg praised the leadership that he and vice-captain Charlie McKay showed during the game.
“Darby’s our co captain, he’s a real strong leader at our club and Charlie is a vice captain,” he said. “They really got to work inside.”
“I think as a midfield we need to improve our stoppage craft, I think we got comprehensively beaten on the inside of the stoppage but what Darby and Charlie did was show that explosive stuff on the outside of the stoppage to be able to link-up, and to be able to move Charlie back in the second half really shows his versatility as a player.”
The Dragons will aim to continue their unbeaten streak at Trevor Barker Oval next Saturday against Dandenong at 2pm.
Best: Caleb Lewis, Luke Cleary, Charlie McKay, Lachie Benton, Darcy Hipwell, Lachlan Riley.
Goals: Eren Soylemez 2, Blake Howes, Jacob Edwards, Charlie McKay, Campbell Chesser