By Murray Silby
A 10 goals to one second quarter coupled with an eight goals to two final term has handed Southport a big 73-point victory, 27.12 (174) to 16.5 (101), over NT Thunder in NEAFL’s Round 6.
It all started with such promise as the Thunder players showed early they weren’t visiting the Gold Coast for the theme parks, scoring with just 43 seconds on the clock.
Dangerous forward Adam Sambono was the one to benefit from a quick centre clearance on that occasion and he followed that up with another major within a minute.
When Sambono scored his third after seven minutes, Thunder had three on the board to Southport’s one.
It all started to turn during the middle stages of the term however, with goals to the Sharks’ Tom Wilkinson and Mitch Johnson.
It was a period of the game when the Sharks were able to dominate possession, but struggled to score majors.
At the same time Thunder was having trouble getting the ball out of its defensive half and although the visitors would go to the quarter-time break with a seven-point lead, thanks to two late goals from Darren Ewing, the danger signs were there.
Southport’s 3.7 from the first quarter to Thunder’s 5.2, flattered Thunder and then, in the second quarter, things really got ugly for the visitors.
Correcting its inaccuracy of the first term, Southport kicked the first four goals of the second, before Scott McLeod was handed one thanks to a free kick from the centre bounce and a 50-metre penalty that followed.
It was one of the few times the ball moved past centre into Thunder’s forward half of the ground during the second quarter.
The Sharks dominated clearances, both in the centre and around the ground, freely executing their run and carry style of play.
Even when under pressure, Sharks players always had another to offload to and then frequently opened up Thunder’s defence by switching play to the open side of the ground.
The visitors seemed to have no answer for Southport’s tall timber in Fraser Thurlow, who, apart from dominating the ruck contests, also contributed two goals, or its smaller brigade such as Wilkinson and Charlie Ford, who also kicked two each for the term.
Meanwhile, small forward Johnson was proving an annoying thorn in the side of the Thunder defenders and kicked his third for the match and his side’s 10th for the quarter after 32 minutes.
As he ran away from the NT defence with three bounces into an open goal square just before the half-time siren giving the hosts a 48-point lead at the long break, it seemed a matter of how far for the hosts.
Confirmation of that seemed to come within two minutes of the third quarter getting underway when Wade Hancock scored and the margin stretched to 54 points.
Ewing, Sambono and McLeod then gave Thunder supporters a glimmer of hope with a run of three goals, only to see the home side kick three of its own, including one to the irrepressible Johnson and the busy Hancock.
From the 17 minute mark of the quarter onwards however, Thunder managed to kick another five goals, including another two to Ewing.
In all, the third term saw Thunder boot eight goals to the Sharks’ six, giving the visitors a 39-point deficit to overhaul in the final quarter and pull off an unlikely victory.
Justifying his return to the side, McLeod booted his third early in the final stanza, which was followed up by Sambono’s sixth a few minutes later to reduce the margin to 26 points.
After the ignominy of the second quarter hammering Thunder had managed to claw itself back into the contest and had all to play for, but Southport had a vastly different finale in mind.
The turning point seemed to come in three parts. The first was a gift presented to Josh Baxter wrapped in a 50-metre penalty, which put him directly in front of goal with the resultant six points taking the Sharks’ lead back out to 32 points.
The second was Thunder’s chance to reply at the other end of the ground, which resulted in a rushed behind.
One minute later Tom Ellard goaled for the home side and with the margin 37 points, the Thunder charge seemed to grind to a halt.
In the last 20 minutes of the final term, Southport’s Johnson would kick another four goals to take his tally to eight for the day and the Sharks would add the last eight goals of the match to seal the 73-point victory.
Although able to match the Sharks for much of the game, Thunder had difficulty stopping Southport when the NEAFL ladder leader got on a roll. A point acknowledged by coach Andrew Hodges.
“They opened up in that second quarter, which was really disappointing,” he said. “We didn’t react quick enough to shut that down so credit to Southport, they played some really good footy.
“We played some good footy in parts, but just not for long enough.”
Hodges said the Sharks players ran harder for longer, creating opportunities, which after quarter time, they took.
“They ran really hard. I think they’re half-backs were running pretty hard at stoppages and they utilised that spare (player) around the stoppage really well and we didn’t react to it quick enough and shut it down as quick as we needed to,” he said.
Thunder gets the chance to end its losing streak at three in a row next weekend when it hosts the Gold Coast Suns in Darwin.
The Suns suffered their own devastating loss on Saturday, by 92 points to Brisbane. The loss amplified by the Suns’ inability to kick even one goal for the entire match.
“We’ll go and have a really good recovery and review and get ourselves ready to take on the Gold Coast, who obviously had a disappointing loss today as well,” Hodges said.
“Two sides coming off big losses that will be hungry for a win so we’re looking forward to getting back to Darwin and having a home game and doing everything right to ensure we get that win.”
SOUTHPORT: 3.7, 13.8, 19.11, 27.12 (174)
NT THUNDER: 5.2, 6.2, 14.2, 16.5 (101)
Southport – Mitch Johnson 8, Wade Hancock 4, Tom Wilkinson 3, Josh Baxter 2, Tom Ellard 2, Charlie Ford 2, Fraser Thurlow 2, Lee Dale, Matt Doran, Andrew Boston, Ethan Reeves.
NT Thunder – Adam Sambono 6, Darren Ewing 5, Scott McLeod 3, Ben Rioli, Patrick Heenan
Southport – Mitch Johnson, Andrew Boston, Josh Clayton, Tyler Roos, Wade Hancock, Fraser Thurlow.
NT Thunder – Adam Sambono, Darren Ewing, Scott McLeod, Abraham Ankers, Sam Talbot, Matthew Campbell.