The Dragons have successfully navigated a tricky fly-in-fly-out visit to Tasmania to register their sixth win of the season on Saturday afternoon.
A miserly defensive performance made-up for inaccuracy at the other end, as they held the Devils to just two goals, winning 6.20 56 to 2.6 18.
A sluggish start meant that the heat was on the back six early in the game. Vice-captains Charlie McKay, Luke Cleary and Liam Hayes repelled countless forays as the Devils hit the ground running.
Ollie Lowe opened the scoring in the eighth minute after McKay was held too long in a tackle, earning a free-kick. Marcus Windhager’s run-and-carry worked the ball to the outer side, where Blake Howes and Luke Nankervis combined to find Lowe in the pocket, where he nailed a tough set-shot.
He added a second minutes later after some trademark dash out of defence from Josh Sinn.
The captain, who looked back to his best after a long lay-off through injury, found the returning Campbell Chesser in the middle, whose long kick to the goalsquare presented the opportunity for Lowe to snap in traffic, and give Sandringham an 11-point lead at the first break.
A brilliant chase from ruckman Max Heath on a Tassie player in on goal late in the term meant the Dragons maintained momentum heading into the second, and was symbolic of the defensive effort that was on display throughout the game.
The second quarter was all Sandringham, holding Tasmania scoreless as the ball took-up residency in the Dragons’ half of the ground. But inaccuracy cost them on the scoreboard, with just two goals in the quarter to show for their dominance.
Eren Soylemez’s goal broke a run of six consecutive behinds to start the second quarter, intercepting a kick-out from fullback and capitalizing from directly in front.
Lowe had his third after Nankervis won a freekick in the centre with a perfectly executed tackle, and found him on a searching lead. From close to the apex of the 50 and the boundary line, the kick was never in doubt, pushing the margin to 31 at half-time.
The third quarter was more of the same for the Dragons as they continued to miss opportunities on goal.
Tasmania kicked the only major of the quarter from a stoppage deep in the forward-half to remain within striking distance at three-quarter-time, having cut the lead to 28.
Carrying momentum into the last, they opened the scoring in the final quarter with a set-shot, and the lead was just 21.
But Sandringham were able to answer-back instantly through Joe Nowell.
A desperate smother from Mitch Owens in the forward 50 spilt to the big forward, who snapped truly from 30 metres out.
Despite continuing to dominate the play, a run of four consecutive behinds meant that the Dragons were unable to completely shut the door on the Devils as the quarter continued.
It took running machine Tom Blamires making the most of a forced turnover in the forward 50 and kick truly from the boundary line to put the result beyond doubt.
Faced with rare match conditions requiring them to fly in and out of Tasmania in the same day, coach Jackson Kornberg took pride in the group’s ability to handle new and challenging circumstances.
“The overriding emotion after the game from me, as I said to them at the airport, I was really proud of their efforts and really proud of them as players and people to adapt to really unusual or new routine for them,” Kornberg said.
“It’s a 15 hour day; they’re out of bed at 6.30/7 o’clock, they’re on a plane, only a handful of our boys had ever travelled interstate to play football before, it was only our academy representatives and none of them had done it in one day, and I think by the time they got home it would have been 11/11.30.
“It was a great experience for the boys to be able to do that, and to go away and get a win, regardless of the inaccuracy in front of goal, to still win by five or six goals in the end, I think it was a good result to away and do that with our boys.”
While the inability to convert opportunities was a frustration for the coaching group, Kornberg is confident in his playing group’s ability to rectify their mistakes.
“From a quantity point-of-view, the boys put in a lot of time.
“I think during the game there’s a combination of things that can go wrong; number one is just pure inaccuracy; I think there were gettable goals that we missed. But then there’s also the way that we enter inside 50, and are we getting them from gettable areas, or are we missing from areas that are low percentage? So I think it probably was a combination of both.
“The way we play and the way the boys are applying themselves, they’re getting themselves plenty of opportunities, it’s just how we capitalize on that, that’s the million dollar question and the players and coaches are working pretty hard on trying to fix that up.”
The win takes the Dragons to six wins from seven games for the season. They will next face the Calder Cannons in Cragieburn next Saturday morning.
Sandringham Dragons: 2.1 – 4.9 – 4.14 – 6.20 56
Tasmania Devils: 0.2 – 0.2 – 1.4 – 2.6 18
Goalkickers: Ollie Lowe 3, Eren Soylemez, Tom Blamires, Joe Nowell.
Best Players: Blake Howes, Luke Cleary, Ollie Lowe, Charlie McKay, Liam Hayes, Mitch Owens.