Hawks Edge Tigers in Thriller

The Box Hill Hawks have continued their winning ways, overcoming a fast-starting and fast-finishing Richmond at Punt Road Oval on Saturday morning.

The heart-stopping three point victory represents another vital four points in the Hawks’ pursuit of not only finals football, but the all-important double chance.

Zane Littlejohn’s Hawks possess a 12-and-three record, a return good enough for fourth place with three matches to play, a game inside the four and two games inside the top six – a finish necessary to avoid the VFL’s wildcard play in matches.

Defeat to Richmond would’ve trimmed the gap between the Hawks and Tigers to just six points and placed the former smack-bang in the middle of a log jam to secure that top-six berth, while the latter would’ve tacked themselves onto the chasing pack. 

Box Hill co-captain Cal Porter was named his side’s best player on the day, finishing his morning’s work with 28 touches, 10 clearances, eight inside 50s and three tackles. 

Gritty inside the contest and clinical at stoppage, ‘Ports’ went toe-to-toe with his Richmond counterparts in all phases of the game. First to get his side into the game following the Tigers’ good start, then into a position of control during the second and third terms and, finally, to see the match out in a frantic final quarter. 

His influence at the coalface allowed the likes of Cal Brown, Lachy Bramble and Cam Mackenzie to deal damage outside stoppage – something which went some way towards deciding the fate of the four points.

On Brown, Box Hill’s off-season acquisition was superb. Again.

A game-high 36 disposals is the headline statistic, but throw in five inside 50s, six rebound 50s and seven marks and you’ll get an idea of the work rate and ground he covered from first siren to last.

Typically daring out of half-back, Brown was integral in steering his side through their best periods of the day and, importantly, out of trouble when the Tigers got on top.

Having produced a team-high four goals, Jacob Koschitzke was another to impress. Like Brown the top-line raw number is impressive, but when interrogated you learn his four majors came from just four marks, while he also had three inside 50s. 

So, he was working as hard to compete in the air as he was on the deck and, pleasingly, being rewarded on the scoreboard.

Jai Serong’s excellent run of form in defence continued, with the developing tall diligent throughout his latest shift in the back 50.

He’d finish his day with 12 touches, five marks, three rebound 50s and three tackles. 

The aforementioned Cam Mackenzie was another who should be well pleased with his performance. 28 possessions, eight inside 50s, eight clearances and seven tackles tells the story of a young man who impacted in the contest and on the spread. 

It’d be remiss of me to make no mention of his ball use and decision making, which was sensational all day.

Lastly among the Hawks best was ruckman Lloyd Meek, who, Koschitzke aside, was arguably the best big man on the ground and finished with 15 touches, 27 hit outs and five marks. 

All told Box Hill boasted the top five disposal winners on the day and the three players who tallied the most clearances and inside 50s; the Hawks also finished +31 in disposals, +14 in inside 50s, +6 in clearance and +14 in marks. 

The Hawks were forced to dig in following a slightly stilted start to proceedings and trailed by three goals early in the contest. Tristan Waack’s first-ever VFL goal arrived in-between three Noah Cumberland goals and a single via the boot of Kaelan Bradtke.

Harry Morrison provided a settler from range late on as Box Hill finished the first term the stronger. 

The visiting Hawks returned from the first break looking like the sharper team, but only managed a solitary behind for their positive play.

A Bigoa Nyuon goal somewhat dampened spirits in the brown and gold camp, as the hosts skipped out to a three goal lead for the second time and looked to gap a Box Hill side who were playing good football, but couldn’t quite translate that into joy on the scoreboard.

That joy would arrive starting with a Brandon Ryan goal after 12 minutes. Butler got in on the act just five minutes later and by the time Koschitzke had booted his first early in time on of the second term the Hawks had sensationally and swiftly tied the scores.

Hardly content with being nose-to-nose, Kosi’s second delivered Box Hill a half-time lead their second quarter had very quickly warranted.

Seven points to the good, the third played out as a cagey, albeit highly entertaining arm-wrestle in which the sides spent the first 20 minutes trading goals. 

Cumberland’s fourth was cancelled out by Koschitzke’s third, before the Tiger man’s  fifth was quickly nullified by Butler’s second. By the time the Hawks’ no.23 kicked goal number four Box Hill had skipped out to a game-high 13-point lead. When Cooper Stephens expertly curled through a right footed snap the advantage had swelled to a potentially decisive 18-points.

Judson Clarke played the role of nuisance just before three quarter time, but by whatever measure you want to gauge things, the term had been a success for a Hawks outfit which had grown their lead and put themselves within 30 minutes of a valuable four points. 

Meek booted the all-important first goal of the last quarter to seemingly inch his side closer to victory, but Richmond wouldn’t go away. Green drew them back to within 13-points, before Brandon Ryan and Noah Cumberland traded goals to keep the game in the balance. 

Josh Bennetts and Ed Phillips had half-chances to seal the game sail agonisingly wide, before the Tigers kicked goals at the 20 and 23 minute marks to get to within a kick with five minutes to play.

With just seconds remaining, a desperate James Blanck ran back with the flight to spoil a goal-bound and almost certainly match-winning kick through for a rushed behind, leaving Damian Mascitti just enough time to bring the ball back into play to allow the siren to sound.

As they’d done six days prior, Box Hill had rallied from a slow start and held off a late charge to secure a critical win. 

Box Hill

2.5

6.7

10.9

12.12 84

Richmond

4.2

5.6

8.8

12.9 81


Best:
Porter, Brown, Koschitzke, Serong, Mackenzie, Meek

Goals: Koschitzke 4, Ryan 2, Butler 2, Waack, Stephens, Morrison, Meek

Disposals: Brown 36, Porter 28, Mackenzie 27, Bramble 27, Morrison 25, Stephens 23 

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