MATCH REPORT: Done A Week Too Soon

Box Hill have fallen just one step shy of a fourth Grand Final in five years, beaten by Richmond in Saturday’s VFL Preliminary Final.

The Tigers came into the clash having already survived two cutthroat finals in as many weeks, whilst the Hawks looked to capitalise on the week off following victory over Port Melbourne a fortnight ago.

Bright blue skies lit up a sun drenched North Port Oval, suggesting near perfect conditions for finals football, but in reality the surface was variably wet and dry from half back to half forward.

In a devastatingly impressive first half-an-hour, the yellow and black acclimated quickest to the conditions and intensity of the day to set the tempo and the platform for a crushing win.

Box Hill attempted to rally and establish a foothold, but despite their best efforts found it difficult to live with the Tigers’ persistent and repeated sieges on their goal, with wave after wave of attack to the right of screen producing a six goal to nil first term.

The second quarter started much like the first ended, with the Tigers stifling the Hawks’ opportunity to win and transition clean ball.

After Richmond kicked the first of the term they showed their defence was just as miserly as their attack was potent, producing a string of marvellous and desperate efforts to deny Mitch O’Donnell and Conor Nash.

Soon after, a handful of encouraging forays forward suggested the Hawks weren’t far away from their first of the day. With ten minutes of the second quarter played, skipper David Mirra was a welcome, if unlikely, first goal scorer.

Snapping high and instinctively from forty metres out, it required assistance in the form of an Andrew Moore shepherd on the goal line, but gave Box Hill some overdue reward for effort.

The skipper was involved again shortly after, this time producing a trademark defensive effort to keep the Tigers at bay, laying the platform for Kade Stewart to kick his first of the day from a tricky angle hard on the boundary.

A third goal in eight minutes followed, this time from the boot of the hard-running Billy Murphy after some terrific persistence from Joseph Fisher, to reduce the margin to just 22-points nearing time on.

Sadly, that would be the closest the two sides would be for the remainder of the contest.

Moore and Hampson kicked the Tigers clear again, before Ayden Kennedy gave the Hawks hope with a bullet-like finish from 55.

A fast start after the half was needed should the brown and gold want to challenge, but such a start was reserved for the Tigers, who laid on four goals in the first thirteen minutes to take a ten goal advantage.

Willsmore pulled one back, but two further goals to Richmond gave them a 64-point lead at the last break.

The two sides split the first four goals of the final term, with David Mirra moved forward to kick a second of the day and Marc Pittonet getting some reward for a good individual display.

As the clock ticked down the effort didn’t wane, typifying the Hawks’ fighting spirit during a sensational, though ultimately unfulfilled season 2017.

It wasn’t to be, beaten by a better team on the day.

Box Hill    0.1   4.2   5.3   8.6 54
Richmond    6.5   9.6   15.7   18.11 119

Mirra 2, Stewart, Murphy, Kennedy, Willsmore, Pittonet, Hanrahan

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