MATCH REPORT: Hawks March On

The high flying, free scoring Box Hill Hawks have survived a third quarter scare, moving to within touching distance of a guaranteed top-two finish and the all-important home final.

In a rich vein of form of late, the Hawks added Geelong to their list of recent scalps, running out 52-point winners on a windswept afternoon at a chilly Box Hill City Oval.

Against the ladder leaders and with first use of a genuine four-plus goal advantage it was important the Cats made a good start.

However, after just a minute and two promising inside fifties it was the Hawks who had drawn first blood, with ruckman Marc Pittonet marking well and converting his shot from just on twenty metres out.

There would have been considerable concern brewing in the Geelong coach’s box as Box Hill continued to defy the breeze and hold sway, but half chances from the boots of Sam Switkowski, debutant Dale Hehir and Dallas Willsmore handed the visitors a reprieve.

The Hawks found their second fifteen minutes after their first, when Max Warren’s quick kick forward was read best by Kade Stewart. The Box Hill number forty marked on the dive and nailed his set shot.

Shortly after, Geelong moved the ball slickly by hand from half back and produced their first inside fifty and goal of the afternoon from the boot of Ratugolea. It was the first evidence of the assistance on offer should you use the breeze to quickly transition the ball.

Skipper David Mirra, Warren and Nick Evans formed a resolute rearguard as the first quarter ticked into time-on and the Cats enjoyed their best period of the match, though it would be their turn to be wasteful.

Aaron Black and then Sam McLachlan burned good opportunities to draw the Cats inside a goal down, but this time the Hawks would make them pay.

With Hehir involved and impressing, Andrew Moore strong around the contest and the Hawks turning the screws, two goals to end the quarter was just reward for a strong opening.

Ty Vickery kicked his first of the day following some fine improvisation, providing a trap, turn and scuffed shot that’d catch the eye of world game enthusiasts.

Barely a minute later Chris Jones, Vickery’s nearest rival for the Hawks’ leading goal kicker, rose highest to mark in front and kick his first of the afternoon from fifteen metres out.

The second quarter started as the first had ended, with all the action at Box Hill’s attacking end of the ground.

A known and noted goal kicker, Anthony Brolic won himself a free kick for holding the ball deep inside fifty and expertly steered through a potentially tricky set shot, recording his seventeenth goal for the year.

Vickery turned provider for two quick goals for the hosts, first keeping the ball alive for Stewart to dribble through a classy finish from the pocket, before handing off to Moore to snap a beauty from forty meters out right in front.

An arm wrestle ensued for the next ten or so minutes, with a miserly and desperate Geelong defence denying the Hawks quality looks at the big sticks.

So telling was the Hawks’ control of the contest, David Mirra managed a rare shot at goal. His right footed effort fading to the right and leaving his career tally at five from one-hundred and twenty one VFL matches.

WIth Kieran Lovell, Warren and Brolic winning plenty of the footy, time in forward half holding steady and the inside fifties mounting it seemed a matter of when, not if, the bough would break.

A surging run and terrific finish from Billy Murphy broke the stalemate and, all of a sudden, the game sprung to life.

Geelong answered with two goals of their own to have the margin back within five kicks, but Murphy added a second after running onto the loose ball and snapping from a narrow angle.

A fifty meter penalty took Kurt Heatherley within range and with his radar locked on the defender kicked his first and the Hawks’ tenth.

The Cats goalled to end the scoring for the first half, though an impressive effort from Box Hill had them seven goals to the good going into the long break.

Once play resumed Jermaine Jones gave the Cats the perfect start and his teammates would follow his lead to produce their best period of the contest.

Despite Kade Stewart kicking his third and fourth goals for the afternoon during the third term, Box Hill found the breeze hard to master, missing a trio of set shots to keep the door ajar.

The Cats would sneak right back into the contest, their seven goal to two third term setting the stage for a tantalising final half-an-hour.

Aaron Black hit the scoreboard, whilst Jermaine Jones, Sam Dobson and Jack Henry each added their second goals of the day.

The visitors, playing with a greater intensity at the contest than they’d displayed to that point, used the wind to their advantage and moved to within sixteen points at the final change.

Ultimately, it was to be a case of anything you can do, we can do better.

As the fourth quarter began Sam Switkowski provided an earlier settler, winning a free following a crunching tackle inside fifty. Following some ill-discipline ‘Switta’ was taken to the goal line, where he kicked the easiest goal of his career.

Playing with renewed dash and dare, Box Hill again surged the ball forward and again reaped the rewards of direct and attacking football.

Billy Murphy cleverly dribbled the ball through from a tight angle for his third of the day, but Geelong answered back via the racking boot of Jordan Cunico to stay alive in the contest.

It was to be the Cats’ last meaningful hurrah, however, as the Hawks finally closed the door.

Murphy, playing a terrific second half, kept his cool to find Vickery inside fifty, with the big forward unselfishly passing to Willsmore to run into the open goal. It was a passage of play that typified the free-scoring unselfish Hawks.

Nick Evans kicked a rare goal with a peach of a hit on the left to get the lead out to thirty-five, before Murphy kicked his fourth following a botched kick out, hardly having to move to mark unattended just thirty meters out.

Hehir capped a fine debut with a goal, marking in a fashion familiar to Development watchers. The high leap, outstretched hands and graceful landing finished off with a deserved major.

Rhys Stanley pulled one back for the Cats, but with the Dreamstreet Lending scoreboard reading thirty-five minutes played there was still time for one last goal.

Hehir showed urgency and dash that sent a long ball to the goal line, which was marked by Kade Stewart. With a fifth goal in the offing he unselfishly opened the angle up for Willsmore, who marked and kicked his second.

just like the Cats they’d managed a seven goal to two term to finish the match in stirring fashion: on top of their game and, pleasingly, on top of the VFL ladder.

Box Hill 4.5 10.11 12.17 19.23 (137)
1.4 4.4 11.7 13.7 (85)

Goals: Murphy 4, Stewart 4, Willsmore 2, Brolic, Evans, Heatherley, Heir, Jones, Moore, Pittonet, Switkowski, Vickery

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