Country crushes Metro in nine-goal run

NINE unanswered goals from Vic Country ensured it beat its Metro rivals in a stunning mid-match turnaround at the AFL Under 18 Championships today. To that point, Vic Metro looked to be the stronger side leading by as much as 18 points at one stage, before Country piled on the goals to leave the IKON Park crowd shellshocked en route to a 15.16 (106) to 11.9 (75) victory.

Vic Country lead early in the match when Gippsland Power tall Archer Reid answered the opener from Calder Cannons’ Mahmoud Taha. After peppering the goals in the final 10 minutes of the first term, Metro struck through bottom-ager Jagga Smith and leading goalkicker Nick Watson to take an 11-point lead into quarter time.

Top AFL draft prospect Harley Reid started in the midfield and was getting amongst it early, racking up seven disposals in the first term, the fourth most on the ground behind teammate Darcy Wilson (nine) and Metro bottom-age jet Levi Ashcroft (eight). Smith had a ridiculous 11 disposals and was a prime mover on the inside, particularly executing by hand.

Coming out of the first break, Vic Country renewed its attack on the contest, with Oskar Smartt and reigning Under 16s MVP Finn O’Sullivan converting majors to level the scores again. That was as close it got though as Metro booted three goals in five minutes – two to Charlie Harrop and one to Nate Caddy – to stretch the margin out to 18 points at the 15-minute mark of the second term.

Though subtle, Vic Country built early momentum in the last 10 minutes of the term, with Geelong Falcons forward Thomas Anastasopoulos converting two goals when his teammates around him were missing. It trimmed the half-time margin to just two points, and it was game on.

Then, as if out of nowhere, Vic Country blew Metro away, slamming on seven consecutive goals in the third term – and nine in a row – to lead by 41 points at the 15-minute mark of the third term. In the space of a quarter, Country had produced a 59-point turnaround, booting 9.5 to 0.0.

Top 10 prospect Zane Duursma (three goals) and GWV Rebels draft bolter Joel Freijah (two) were the main architects in the comeback, but it was the midfield work of Country that piled on a ridiculous amount of clearances and inside 50s in the third term. Incredibly, Country had one less disposal (68-69) than Metro, but kicked 7.1 to 1.1, with a third major to Harrop giving the home side a rare chance to celebrate.

Vic Metro did fight to the end, and even won the last term, but ultimately it was always going to be difficult mounting a comeback from 34 points down. They booted 4.4 to 3.7 in the final term with Watson filling his boots with three goals to take his total to four for the match. In the end, it was not enough though as Country got up by 31 points.

Harley Reid won the Vic Country MVP off the back of another strong performance, picking up 24 disposals and a match-high 11 clearances, as well as five marks and four inside 50s. Wilson (23 disposals, five marks, three clearances and six inside 50s), O’Sullivan (20 disposals, seven marks, five tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) and George Stevens (17 disposals seven tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s) were also busy.

Up forward, Duursma finished with four goals from 22 touches, 10 marks and five inside 50s, while Freijah, Anastasopoulos and Archer Reid were prominent among the multiple goalkickers. Kade De La Rue and Luamon Lual also provided nice run in transition.

For Metro, Ashcroft (27 disposals, eight marks) and Smith (22 disposals, four marks, six clearances and a goal) were prominent, while Will Brown shared Smith’s equal team-high six clearances and had six inside 50s. Archie Roberts and Kynan Brown were the other 20-plus disposal winners, while up forward, Watson (four goals), Harrop (three) and Caddy (two) were the multiple goalkickers in the loss. Ruck William Green was dominant at the stoppages with 22 hitouts from 12 disposals and five marks.

Key defender Ollie Murphy was awarded the Vic Metro MVP after a sensationally-consistent carnival. Post-match, the Larke Medal was also handed out, going to Allies’ Ryley Sanders. That concluded the individual medals, with Allies’ Connor O’Sullivan, South Australia’s Sid Draper and Western Australia’s Daniel Curtin the other MVP winners. The All-Australian team is anticipated to be announced this week.

VIC COUNTRY 1.3 | 5.8 | 12.9 | 15.16 (106)
VIC METRO 3.2 | 6.4 | 7.5 | 11.9 (75)

Vic Country:
Z. Duursma 4, J. Freijah 2, T. Anastasopoulos 2, A. Reid 2, J. Grant 2, F. O’Sullivan, L. Lual, O. Smartt
Vic Metro: N. Watson 4, C. Harrop 3, N. Caddy 2, J. Smith, M. Taha

Vic Country: Z. Duursma, H. Reid, D. Wilson, F. O’Sullivan, A. Reid, G. Stevens
Vic Metro: L. Ashcroft, J. Smith, O. Murphy, W. Green, N. Watson, C. Harrop

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