VFL Match Report: Hawks Slay Giants

The Box Hill Hawks have taken a significant step towards securing September football, defeating a spirited and fast-finishing GWS in Western Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

The result movies the Hawks to 10-and-three on the season – three games and percentage inside the competition’s top 10 and at least one game inside the top six – a return through 13 matches and 16 rounds which is good enough to maintain touch with Gold Coast, Brisbane and Werribee above. 

 

It also sets up a tantalising Round 17 match-up against the resurgent and in-form North Melbourne next Sunday – but more on that next week!

In conditions which were the complete inverse of when the sides last met in Sydney – sunny, fine and warm – the Hawks and Giants combined for a cagey, stop-start albeit intriguing opening term.

The home side booted the first goal of the day via Max Gruzewski after eight minutes and would control the lions’ share of territory and the tempo of the match-up for much of the quarter. 

Box Hill’s rearguard was stout during this time, manfully scrambling back to goal to keep the GWS’s fast and direct ball movement at bay. 

Experienced hands Damian Mascitti and Cal Brown were instrumental in assisting and organising the likes of Jai Serong, Emerson Jeka, Liam Coghlan and Tristan Waack down back during this phase, guiding their younger teammates through a tricky and testing period in defence. 

Ned Long kicked the Hawks’ opening major after 11-and-a-half minutes to briefly swing the momentum the visitors’ way. But any hope one goal would become two or three was short lived as, again, the Giants went on the attack. 

Asked to defend and hold firm once more, that’s precisely what Box Hill did to limit the damage to a solitary goal for the remainder of the first term. 

A timely and extremely valuable goal arrived via Jack O’Sullivan right on the stroke of quarter time and, having endured a searching examination, the Hawks went to the first change a single point in arrears. 

The Box Hill midfield clicked into gear after some words of encouragement from their coaches and, an early Aaron Cadman goal aside, went some way towards setting up the win with a scintillating four goal burst in just under eight minutes.

Between the five and 13 minute marks, Lloyd Meek, Lachy Bramble, Jack O’Sullivan and Cooper Stephens found their range, before Josh Bennetts got in on the act a short while later. In what felt like the blink of an eye Box Hill had kicked five unanswered and six of seven to open up a handy  26-point buffer. 

The Giants clawed a goal back just prior to the long break, but the Hawks had produced an excellent and ultimately crucial quarter of footy to take a 19-point lead into half time. Once in front Box Hill wouldn’t be headed again. 

Gruzewski kicked goals three and four early in the third term to draw his team within seven points,  but a steadier from Bennetts kept GWS at bay and his side in the driver’s seat.

Brandon Ryan came to life soon after, booting three of his four goals for the day between the 18 and 31 minute marks of the quarter, ensuring the Hawks won the term and extended their lead to 29-points.

Bramble gave the brown and gold the perfect start to the final term, kicking truly after 60 seconds to inch the lead out beyond five goals for the first time; but this is where things got a little nervy.

While the Hawks’ 35-point lead held for seven minutes without incident, once Wade Derksen got the Giants going the game swung sharply in the the hosts’ favour. Over the next 16 minutes the Giants would have seven successive scoring shots for a return of 4.3 – with all four goals remarkably kicked by Derksen. Alarmingly, the lead was trimmed to just eight points with 24 minutes on the clock. 

Needing a steadier to stem the bleeding, Bennetts and Butler combined in the shadows on the broadcast side to get the ball to Ryan. With the goal at his mercy the former Northern Bullant made no mistake.

This goal would conclude the scoring and, more importantly, confirm Box Hill had survived an almighty late scare to clinch a massive four points. 

Ned Long was named the Hawks’ best player on the day on account of his 29 disposals, seven inside 50s, six clearances, three rebound 50s and one goal. 

Strong and clean inside & good with ball in hand and on the spread, the big-bodied midfielder drove his legs through contests and into space all afternoon.

Lachy Bramble was another fine contributor on the day, prising maximum value from his 20 disposals to tally two goals, four score involvements, seven marks, two inside 50s and four rebound 50s. As illustrated by that stat line, the Hawks’ no.16 was here, there and everywhere all afternoon. 

Lloyd Meek was the dominant big man on the ground, recording 17 disposals, five marks, six clearances, three inside 50s, six score involvements, a game-high 31 hit outs and a goal. 

The ever-reliable and consistent Cal Brown continued his excellent debut season in brown and gold, finishing the day with a game-high 31 touches, five marks, four clearances, four rebounds, four inside 50s and six clearances. 

Whether across half-back, where he helped his defenders diffuse and relieve pressure, or further afield, Brown’s pace and dare with ball in hand was integral from first siren to last.

The lively Josh Bennetts is another who has compiled an excellent and encouraging debut season  at the VFL level, a run of form which continued on Saturday. 

The forward was busy with 13 touches – a number which, in isolation, sells his impact short. He also provided four inside 50s, six score involvements and, most importantly, booted 2.1

Lastly among the Hawks best players was Damian Mascitti. The veteran was a calming influence during turbulent stages of the game, finishing his day with 25 touches at 88% efficiency – a game-high for any player who recorded over 18 disposals – and four marks. The former skipper also had a game-high nine rebound 50s. 

In all, Box Hill had won interstate for the second time in three weeks, consolidated its place among the competition’s pace setters and can cast an eye forward to the challenge of North Melbourne in a week’s time.

Box Hill

2.3

7.6

11.11

13.11 89

GWS

2.4

4.5

7.6

11.9 75


Best:
Long, Bramble, Meek, Brown, Bennetts, Mascitti 

Goals: Ryan 4, O’Sullivan, Bramble, Bennetts 2, Stephens, Meek, Long

Disposals: Brown 32, Long 29, Mascitti, 25, Hustwaite 22, Bramble 20, Stephens 19

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