Determined to prove to the 11 unfamiliar Division One teams that they were no slouches, North Ringwood pulled out a memorable victory to send Blackburn home winless after the first two rounds of season 2015.
Yet the final scoreline of 9.13.67 to 6.13.49 belied what went on for 95 percent of the game. The seesawing first quarter, which saw just four goals, was a scrap of a game, with ball handling errors and relentless pressure from the Panthers and Saints. Sam Banfield opened the Blackburn account, and it only took an additional two minutes before Nick Murphy’s booming left foot slotted one through for North Ringwood.
It was like a game of hand-off, with no-one gaining ascendancy. The free kick controversy was never far away either, with Blackburn pinged for an arm over the shoulder late in the first term. Playing coach Brett Moyle was hard at it early for the Saints, who trailed by the slightest of margins – one point – at the quarter time change.
Blackburn were down to two on the bench to begin the 2nd term, with James McFarlane going down with an ankle injury, and Anthony Fagan copped a knock on the knee in a contest. Coach Peter Banfield emphasised to his players to go hard down the middle, but it was North Ringwood who did exactly that.
James Dean took just 30 seconds to register a goal for North Ringwood, and soon enough the margin was out to 17 points, the highest of the day. Blackburn’s work toward the forward arc was thwarted primarily by Darcy Powell, Nathan Payne and Tyson Wills around the stoppages, with Aaron Hatton breaking through at the 17 minute mark.
Max Otten was a miser for Blackburn all through the day, and a three point margin at half-time had the game very evenly poised.
Missed opportunities for both sides in the third quarter, including hitting the post on the run, mean that at three quarter time it was just as close as it was at quarter-time, with Blackburn holding a slender advantage.
At the Saints last-change huddle, Moyle was barely raising a sweat and told the team he was out there to play in these sorts of matches, where there was an opportunity to earn a hard-fought win. And that is exactly what North Ringwood set out to achieve.
Dean’s long goal on the run created a buffer that would ultimately not be broken, as Blackburn could only muster four behinds to almost four goals for North Ringwood, going down in the end by 18 points.
Jake Hammond, unwavering in his work ethic, slotted a beautiful left-foot goal from the wrong side on the forward arc late in the third term, providing the Blackburn cheer squad with plenty to talk about. But it wouldn’t get them over the line, as the Saints marched on, undefeated after two rounds.
Moyle said post-game that the match wasn’t won until the last five or six minutes, having been hotly contested all day.
“There wasn’t too many easy kicks out there. Blackburn’s a small ground, and I’m sure Peter Banfield wanted them to be hard and aggressive, and I wanted my boys to play hard too.”
Control of the ball throughout the day was relatively even, said Moyle, and it was only in the last quarter where missed opportunities became more pertinent.
“Blackburn had their chances early in the last quarter…lucky for us they missed a couple they should have kicked. We were able to win some key one-on-one contests across half-forward and they resulted in goals.”
North Ringwood may have come down to just two on the bench, come the last change, but it didn’t stop the Saints from ploughing on in the last quarter.
“One of our best midfielders (came off the ground), so that hurts us with our rotations. Early in the year, match fitness is not where you want it to be, but the boys dug in. I think, coming up to Division One, that’s a competitive advantage for us; we’re used to winning.”
The win means other top division teams will now be hotly checking over their shoulders, as North Ringwood make their move. Blackburn, after a last-gasp win against Lilydale in round one, have to regroup against South Croydon. The Saints will take on Rowville – who lost to Noble Park by more than 80 points – at Quambee Reserve on the ANZAC Weekend.