MATCH REPORT: Box Hill Outlast Borough

The Box Hill Hawks have seen off the always threatening and formidable Port Melbourne to book a place in this season’s preliminary finals.

The two sides met on the same ground just a fortnight ago, with the re-match a similarly hard-fought war of attrition. However, this time around the result would fall the way of the hosts.

High winds and heavy rain lashed the ground during the Development League curtain raiser between Casey and Port Melbourne, though fortunately conditions eased by the first bounce of the day’s main event.

Chris Newman started with a more open forward fifty than we’ve seen in recent weeks, deploying just four forwards for the start of play.

The added space was utilised almost immediately, when the impressive Jono O’Rourke exited a stoppage on half forward and hit-up the leading Ty Vickery. Vickery’s kick faded left, but already the Hawks’ new look structure had created concern in the Port coaches’ box.

With weight of numbers behind the ball and a slingshot, counter-attack philosophy in place the Borough were a tough defence to crack. Box Hill enjoyed large periods of possession and dominated time in forward half, probing their opponent’s deep lying defence in search of the game’s opening goal.

After four minutes that goal arrived. A long kick created a little panic and uncertainty in the Port rear guard, with Billy Murphy applying enough pressure to jar the ball free. In the ensuing contest Teia Miles gathered the loose ball and was clumsily taken high just twenty metres out from goal. He wouldn’t miss a chance like that.

The Hawks’ intensity was unrelenting and their positivity infectious in the early exchanges, with the twenty-three chosen clearly relishing the challenge of finals footy.

Kurt Heatherley stood tall to take a series of important and relieving marks, curbing the dangerous Lisle in the process, with skipper David Mirra, Max Warren, Conor Glass and Harry Morrison all equal to a Port Melbourne offence that was slowly but steadily warming into the contest.

The Hawks looked to press and saw a pair of chances go begging within moments, as Murphy – who had started brilliantly – had a quick snap miss to the skinny side and Vickery and Dallas Willsmore couldn’t quite bundle one home.

The relentless pressure would pay, though, when Murphy ran onto a loose ball, rode a tackle and dribbled through his first of the day.

Billy was involved again barely two minutes later. Swooping on a marking contest in the pocket, Murphy would gather possession off hands and show wonderful poise and vision to find the unchecked Andrew Moore, who would add his name to the list of goal kickers.

A fourth goal followed not long after, when Miles was taken high on the fifty metre arc directly in front. As the Borough waited for the set shot Dallas Willsmore snuck himself into a dangerous position, called for the ball and strolled towards fifty. Having steadied, he set sail and the umpire didn’t move an inch.

It was the perfect start. Four goals to zip with twenty-two first quarter minutes elapsed.

Port would respond of course – they’re too good a side not to – and found their first and second goals of the game deep into time on to move within 15-points at the first break.

The visitors started the second quarter on the attack and were repelled only because of a desperate rundown tackle from Mirra and perfectly timed spoil from Conor Glass.

As the Borough pressed, controlling field position and possession, the Hawks found a goal against the run of play.

It was Murphy again, with the Box Hill number three steering through a quite ridiculous set shot from forty-five, barely five metres in from the boundary line.

Recently crowned ‘Frosty’ Miller Medallist Jordan Lisle responded with a beauty of his own not long after, before the Hawks launched a stunning counter from deep in defence.

Max Warren attacked the ball bravely, gathering on the half volley and handing off to Will Hams. A clearing kick in the direction of Conor Nash set the Irish rookie a task, but he would outpoint his opponent with some deft bodywork to take a brilliant one handed mark. It all paved the way for Vincent Adduci to escape out the back and, once in possession, stroll into an open goal.

Pearson and Nahas kicked back-to-back goals for Port to reduce the margin to under two goals, as Port continued to turn up the wick in search of the lead.

The final ten minutes of the half produced a string of important moments, as Mirra spoiled time and time again, Kade Stewart showed remarkable courage to run back with the flight and, crucially, Brendan Whitecross spoiled Lisle just seconds before the siren sounded.

Hanrahan and Miles gave Chris Newman a dream start to the third quarter, each kicking goals inside five minutes to give the Hawks a potentially decisive 20-point advantage.

As defences tightened and clearcut chances were few and far between Port’s Pearson made something out of nothing again, snapping in heavy traffic to reduce the Hawks’ lead.

There would be only one more goal for the term, again to Port, to leave the sides where they were at half time: separated by just eight points.

Port gave their fans reason to cheer inside a minute of the final term, as Toby Pinwill snapped out of a goalmouth scramble to bring his side within a kick.

It was clear that this would be a game decided by a finals-like moment. We all know the sort.

David Mirra would provide two within ninety seconds of one another. The first, a second desperate run down tackle with a certain goal at Port’s mercy, and the second, another crunching tackle to win a free and deny the Borough the opportunity to advance the ball down the field. Two captain’s moments from one of the finest leaders you’ll ever see.

They were crucial in staving off the threat of Port, steadying the Hawks as they searched for some breathing room.

On nine minutes that breathing room arrived in form of a goal off the boot of Adduci, whose brilliant snap came after a textbook front and square. Another moment.

Port responded barely five minutes later, when Sandilands marked in the goal square. The Box Hill defence protested, suggesting it’d come off multiple hands, but their pleas fell on deaf ears and the margin was just two points.

On fifteen minutes Tynan’s running shot crashed into the post, before Conway’s set shot flew wide to tie the scores as the clock ticked into time on. More moments.

Vickery flew highest in two vital packs to pull down big marks, before the moment of the game.

After a turnover in midfield Kade Stewart was the calm in a sea of chaos, finding the retreating Whitecross deep in attacking fifty. The veteran stood tall under advancing pressure, marking well and, more importantly, giving his side a six point lead.

Some desperation from Mitch O’Donnell – whose twenty-seven disposal, eleven tackle game typified the Hawks’ resolve – created a loose ball, which Stewart seized at half forward and hoisted in the direction of goal. His attitude, clearly, was that any score would make the Borough’s task all the more difficult. His snap never seriously threatened the big sticks, though the behind gave his side a two kick lead.

With time on the Hawks’ side another goal would seal the game and secure the hosts’ passage to week three of the finals.

When Andrew Moore stood his ground to mark just fifteen metres out the contest was over. His set shot gave his side an unassailable 13-point lead and closed the afternoon’s scoring.

There was still time for one last David Mirra spoil and, of course, an ear drum-shattering rendition of the club song.

The Hawks had prevailed and taken a giant step towards claiming another premiership.

Box Hill                   4.4    6.8    8.9    11.11 (77)
Port Melbourne    2.1    5.6    7.7    9.10 (64)

GOALS: Murphy 2, Miles 2, Adduci 2, Moore 2, Willsmore, Hanrahan, Whitecross

DISPOSALS: O’Rourke 32, O’Donnell 27, Moore 26, Heatherley 26, Hams 24, Brolic 23

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