THE New Norfolk Eagles took a short trip down the road last Saturday to take on the Brighton Robins in an all-important game for the club for two reasons.
They wanted to perform well in the Brendon Browning memorial game with the winner taking the inaugural Barwick/Browning shield, and to hold onto fifth position on the SFL ladder to have a crack at the finals.
After a tight first half the Eagles slowly got on top to record a good 20-point victory.
The Eagles are now two games clear on the SFL ladder from the Hobart Tigers with one home and away round to play and have earned a spot in finals.
Conditions were not ideal for football with strong gusty winds favouring the highway end of the ground to which the Eagles were kicking in the first term, although goals were difficult to bag due to a cross breeze.
The Robins were kicking against a strong breeze at the dressing room end.
The Eagles entered their forward 50 several times early in the first term registering only minor scores and hitting the post on three occasions.
Big key defender Josh Farrow launched a long ball from half back to half forward with the footy finding Ben Lovell close to goal on a tight angle who kicked truly for the visitors first major.
The Robins had minimal entries up forward working against the wind but answered through Zac Webb minutes later. Match ups at this time had big Eagle Ashley Burgess pitted against Ryan Bailey in the ruck duels and Josh Farrow had the task on Robins captain and key forward Connor Salter.
Rohan Heron picked up Robins tall Nicholas Barker and Robins back man Brad Shaw was on Eagle centre half forward Benny Lovell.
A surprise move was Jordan Banks-Smith moving from the back half to the forward line for the Eagles. The Eagles continued to push forward and found the busy Jye Bearman, who bagged his first goal from a set shot from 35 metres followed by another just minutes later with a long kick to the goal square which bounced through the big sticks.
Eagle strongman Nathan Eiszele goaled just before quarter time to see the Eagles lead by 25 points (Eagles 4.7 (31) to the Robins 1.0 (6).
The Robins needed to use the wind to their advantage in the second term by kicking the footy long into their forward line. An opening goal to forward Dean Jetson followed by another from big forward Connor Salter put the Robins back in the game.
The Robins booted four goals for the quarter with Ryan Bailey, Brady Hayden, and Joel Millhouse all instrumental in lifting the home side’s work rate in and around the stoppages.
The Eagles struggled into the wind with only two behinds.
The Eagles held onto an eight-point lead at the main break (Eagles 4.9 (33) to the Robins 4.1 (25).
The Eagles needed to boost their lead in the third term as the Robins would be coming home with a four- to five-goal breeze in the last term.
They found it hard to hit the scoreboard until the 13-minute mark with some great evasive play from livewire Jye Bearman as he weaved his way around a few opponents and goaled to give the visitors a 17-point break.
The Eagles kicked into gear as Benny Lovell passed to coach Josh Clifford for a goal followed by another from the high marking Tyler Ford which gave them a game high 32-point lead going into three quarter time. (Eagles 7.16 (58) to the Robins 4.2 (26).
The big question was “was a 32-point lead going to be enough for the Eagles” going into the last term?
The Robins knew that they had a chance with the aid of the breeze and kicked an early goal.
The Eagles steadied and controlled the footy in the first 10 minutes of the quarter until young Eagle Brayden Chaplin took a great mark and kicked a vital goal from 40 metres out against the wind.
The Robins booted another two majors late in the term, but the Eagles were home in a tough hard-fought battle in difficult conditions.
They deserved the 20-point win. Back man Rhys Heald was a rock in defence for the Eagles and stopped the Robins going forward on numerous occasions.
Jye Bearman had great impact using his pace and skills to bag three goals, Tyron Bailey was important in many crucial contests and played a great game and coach Josh Clifford led from the front and was busy all day with his hard running, tackling and pressure.
The Eagles once again had a couple of injury concerns during the game with Will Banks and Ben Lovell suffering corked thighs which had the Eagles finishing the last half with only two interchange players available.
The Eagles now face a tough challenge against Cygnet next week at the big Boyer Oval before finals action.
Report by Wayne Walker.