Close losses always hurt, but Werribee’s six-point defeat at the hands of Sandringham at Trevor Barker Beach Oval on Sunday proved particularly painful.
There was a sense of a mighty effort for no avail after the Tigers twice clawed their way back from beyond five goals to close within a kick, but that they were left with so much work to do in the first place was perhaps a greater source of frustration.
While there was no denying the Zebras’ early dominance, the visitors’ final tallies of 11 more scoring shots and 15 more inside-50s tell the story of a second half where they controlled much of the play but failed to convert on the scoreboard.
Both sides entered the contest eager to return to the winners’ list – Werribee to reassert its finals credentials after the previous week’s loss to Footscray, Sandringham to break a run of five defeats that had derailed its promising start to the season – and it was the Zebras who jumped out of the blocks.
Two goals in the opening four minutes were met with replies from Will Fordham and Nick Larkey before the home side launched a seven-goal-to-one assault to take a 37-point advantage into the first change and leave the Tigers reeling.
Stunned into action, Werribee began peppering the goals after the break, but it took 13 minutes and five sprayed shots before Jed Anderson was finally able to rove one off the pack and deliver the first major of the term.
Cameron Zurhaar and Larkey followed up with conversions from strong contested marks to cut the margin to 13 by half time; but with the Tigers having dominated the play and denied Sandringham any score after their first-quarter blitz, there was a feeling things could easily have been even closer.
Another Zurhaar-Larkey brace followed a Zebras drought-breaker and cut the margin to an even six points early in the third term, but the home side again found its groove to boot four of the next five, a snap goal from Jy Simpkin in the shadows of three-quarter time bringing the deficit back to 17 and appearing to set up a tantalizing final term.
It proved to be just that. As Werribee again missed chances in front of goal, Sandringham made the most of theirs to kick the first three of the term and push the margin out to a seemingly unassailable 33 points, a 50m penalty and subsequent goal to Dane McFarlane at the 17-minute mark appearing little more than a consolation prize for the Tigers.
Instead, it proved the catalyst for a whirlwind six minutes that had a miracle win looking a distinct possibility. A beautiful piece of link-up play delivered Matt Hanson his first of the afternoon, and when Larkey struck again and Fordham snapped through a second from close range, the margin was back to eight points with minutes still to spare.
But the equalising goal proved to be Werribee’s stumbling block, the Tigers managing to scramble through another two behinds before a final roll of the dice fell short and left the home side hanging on by a thread.
Werribee coach John Lamont lamented his team’s inability to fully capitalise on its chances after working its way back into the game.
“We didn’t play well early,” said Lamont.
“The opposition jumped us, so that was disappointing. Then we lost by six points and had 10 more scoring shots, so we had our opportunities.
“We got right on top in the second and third quarters, but we just had a few losses of momentum during the course of the game after quarter time, and Sandringham played good footy and prevailed at the end.”
Despite the disappointment of the result, there were again plenty of bright spots for the Tigers.
Joe Maishman’s third game back in the VFL ranks after an extended period in the Development League proved to be his best and saw him generate plenty of outside run to finish with 29 disposals and a goal, while fellow midfielders Will Fordham (25 disposals and two goals) and Tom Gribble (27 disposals) and defender Sam Wright (30 disposals) also found plenty of the footy and were instrumental in a number of important plays.
In the absence of key big man Braydon Preuss, new recruits Kyle Galloway and Jade Cleeland performed admirably in the ruck, while Matt Hanson and third-gamer Dom Brew piled on the pressure at the stoppages with 15 and 17 tackles respectively, the latter's physical presence crucial in turning around his side's fortunes in the second term.
Larkey’s four-goal haul was his second in three weeks and perhaps his most complete performance of the season, Zurhaar had a strong physical presence in front of goal and through the middle, and Josh Corbett also showed promise up forward in his first senior game back after an extended absence with injury and illness, marking strongly and imposing himself on a number of contests.
McFarlane was again impressive with his run out of defence, while Ryley Barrack was at his resolute best down back, a late screamer heading the highlights reel from a big last quarter.
Earlier in the day, Werribee’s development side went down to Sandringham by 61 points.
The Tigers faced a similar first-quarter onslaught to their VFL counterparts, the Zebras booting eight unanswered goals to jump out to 50-point lead by the first change.
From there, the visitors proved much more competitive, posting three goals to two through the second term to wrest back the momentum before Sandringham edged further ahead over the second half.
Recently returned from injury, Werribee captain Michael Sodomaco put in a strong performance in defence and through the middle as he looks to regain match fitness and resume his place in the senior side, while Louis Pinnuck continued to push his claim for a more permanent VFL spot with another impressive showing.
In just his second development game, Western Jets recruit Daniel Foley looked dangerous running off half back and did enough to suggest he may also figure in senior selection contention through the back end of the season.
Werribee is set for another double-header when it travels to Coburg City Oval to take on the Lions next Saturday, with the development side kicking off the day at 10:45am before the seniors get underway at 2pm.
Peter Jackson VFL
Sandringham: 9.3 9.3 14.4 17.6 (108)
Werribee: 3.2 6.8 10.11 14.18 (102)
Sandringham: D. Weickhardt 2, J. Battle 2, N. Wright 2, S. Savage 2, R. Connellan 2, R. Marshall, H. Brayshaw, L. Pierce, L. Verma, J. Fisscher, M. Cook, T. Hickey
Werribee: N. Larkey 4, W. Fordham 2, C. Zurhaar 2, J. Simpkin, M. Munro, J. Anderson, J. Maishman, M. Hanson, D. McFarlane
Sandringham: D. McKenzie, S. Savage, D. Weickhardt, T. Hickey, M. Cook, R. Connellan
Werribee: J. Maishman, D. Brew, D. McFarlane, R. Barrack, W. Fordham, C. Zurhaar
AFL Victoria Development League
Sandringham: 8.3 10.4 14.6 16.10 (106)
Werribee: 0.1 3.4 4.7 6.9 (45)
Sandringham: N. Smith 4, C. Rich 3, B. Bailey 2, L. Batten 2, C. Colombo, C. Larkin, N. Scagliarini, L. Gogis, N. Pavlou
Werribee: T. Nyawela, J. Menadue, H. Kershaw, K. Johnson, A. Liberatore, B. Houlihan
Sandringham: B. Bailey, J. Holmes, J. Baker-Thomas, L. Batten, J. Noone, N. Scagliarini
Werribee: M. Taylor, M. Sodomaco, L. Pinnuck, H. King, B. Iles, D. Foley