For a second week in succession Box Hill has squared off against a fellow finals aspirant and for a second week in succession the Hawks have won a vital four points.
Chris Newman’s side had lost four of their five matches between rounds eight and thirteen, ensuring the past fortnight’s clashes with Footscray and Port Melbourne became genuine eight-point affairs.
The Borough arrived at City Oval boasting the same 7-5 record as their hosts and defied a strong breeze to leap out of the blocks.
Goals to Jordan Lisle, the VFL’s leading goal-kicker, and big-man Khan Haretuku gifted Gary Ayres’ charges the perfect start and placed some early pressure on the Brown and Gold.
Michael Knoll, Box Hill’s rookie ruckman, quickly found his feet on debut, his athleticism and appetite for the contest evident from the off. On the strength of his work at the stoppage the Hawks’ mids soon found their rhythm, whilst the back six settled nicely behind them following a challenging start.
James Worpel showed his explosive ability to win the first of eight clearances on the day and alongside his captain, Andrew Moore, was able to propel the Hawks forward.
Following a brief stalemate and a series of stoppages it was Worpel who kicked his side’s first of the afternoon, swooping on a loose ball at half forward and driving a long right footer over the goal umpire’s head.
From goal kicking heroics to those of the goal-saving variety, it was up to Kurt Heatherley to narrowly deny the Borough their third, before Jackson Ross kicked his first following a terrific mark.
The Hawks were getting good value from their runners, as Anthony Brolic, Harrison Jones, Nathan Boucher and Brayden Kilpatrick were able to use their pace to damaging effect from half-back to half-forward.
Dallas Willsmore and Brolic added their names to the list of first quarter goal kickers before the term was over, both nailing beautiful mid-range kicks to give the hosts a deserved 17-point lead at the first change.
When the second quarter got underway early majors to Harrison Jones and Mitch Lewis threatened to blow the game open, but scoring points wasn’t the only priority.
Lead by the terrific David Mirra, Box Hill’s defence had tightened right up. With Mirra ably supported by the rebounding of Will Hams, lockdown ability of Mitch O’Donnell and key talls Heatherley and Kaiden Brand, the Hawks could sense an opportunity.
But the Borough used the breeze to answer with five of the next six goals to end the half well within touching distance.
That wind blowing to the Whitehorse Road end of City Oval had revealed itself to be worth near enough to three goals come the end of the quarter, setting up an intriguing second half in which the Hawks would need to be anywhere between four and six goals to the good to feel safe heading into the last.
Haretuku levelled things with his third of the day early in the third term, before Mitch Lewis replied with his third of the contest just two minutes later.
Ryan Schoenmakers was growing in influence as a target inside 50 and was rewarded for his efforts following a strong mark and set shot.
Ross added his second and Dylan Moore his first from an acute angle to edge the margin beyond four goals and into dangerous territory for the Borough, before Boucher channelled his inner Antoine Greizmann to soccer the ball out of mid-air for the Hawks’ fifth unanswered goal of the quarter.
It was the perfect close to a pivotal period of the match, confirming a potentially decisive 33-point three quarter time lead.
At the huddle Newman used his final address of the game to praise the efforts of his skipper, Andrew Moore, who had set the tone during the third term, and remind his men that their pressure and intensity at the contest would be what wins the day.
Both sides resumed knowing that the first goal of the final term was all-important. If it fell the way of Port it’d be game on, if it went the Hawks’ way it could prove a knockout blow.
As it was, the ball found its way into the hands of the returning Chris Jones. In the Hawks’ match day squad for the first time since the Club’s final practice match of the pre-season, Jones marked well on the lead before arrowing his set shot right through the middle from just on 50.
Needing at least seven goals to claim a most unlikely victory, Port dug in in search of a quick reply. But, as had been the case for most of the second half, the Box Hill back six would not yield.
With the breeze at their backs the visitors produced just two of the seven goals needed in the following fifteen minutes, before Brayden Kilpatrick’s snap from the pocket – a goal of the day contender – closed the book once and for all.
Ryan Schoenmakers dealt the final blow right on the siren, his second of the day the perfect exclamation mark on a stirring day at City Oval.
The victory returned the Hawks to the top four ahead of a Round 16 bye, where they head a group of six teams separated by just the one win.
|Box Hill||4.6||7.11||12.15||15.20 (110)|
|Port Melbourne||2.1||7.4||8.6||10.7 (67|
Goals: Lewis 3, Ross, Schoenmakers 2, Worpel, Willsmore, Brolic, H. Jones, D. Moore, Boucher, C. Jones, Kilpatrick
Disposals: Worpel 35, A. Moore 30, H. Jones 27, D. Moore 27, Brolic 26, Mirra 22, Schoenmakers 21
Best: Worpel, A. Moore, Mirra, H. Jones, Schoenmakers, Lewis