Round 17: Nomads challenge Saints

The Inverell Saints defeated the Nomads by 14.9 (93) to 9.5 (59) at Bellevue. While the scoreline suggests that the Saints continued comfortably on their march to the TAFL premiership, the reality was somewhat different. The Nomads gave possibly their best team performance of the season to show that the competition is not yet over, and with some work in the next few weeks New England could be realistic challengers at the end of September.

The Nomads took the game to the Saints from the kick-off. They ran well with and without the ball, creating openings for themselves while restricting the Saints attacking options. The movement and drive shown by the Nomads was in stark contrast to the previous week’s match against Gunnedah.

Having lead by 9 points at half time, the Nomads succumbed to tired legs and assorted knocks and the advantage shifted towards the strong, physical style of the Saints. Inverell completely dominated the third quarter, scoring four goals and one behind to the Nomads solitary point. The Nomads were unable to fight their way back into the game in the fourth quarter and the score blew out slightly in the closing stages.

Top goalscorer for New England was Jay Dunlop with four goals. Jay presented well and marked strongly particularly in the first half when he could do no wrong. The other goalscorers for the Nomads were Rich Malone, Matt West, Clint Ballagh, Reece Whitby and Matt Maxwell who all contributed single goals.

From a fine all-round team effort, the outstanding Nomads were Hamish Robertson (winner of the Coach’s award), Rich Malone (Players’ Player), Glen Northway, Clint Ballagh, Mark Curran (President’s award), Mitch Penberthy and Neil ‘Slick’ Cupples (Captain’s award). Slick was making his annual TAFL appearance in a Nomads jumper, having played at least once in every season since 1999, and did a great job in defence.

This was the first time this season that the Saints had been restricted to less than 100 points. New England gave a display that will not win them the flag in itself – at the end of the day they did lose and should not get carried away. However with sufficient commitment they could build on this platform to seriously challenge for the title next month. The effort put in at training sessions from now until the end of the season will go a long way to determining their fate in the finals.

Next week, New England will play the Roos at Bellevue Oval kicking off at 1pm. This match will decide who finishes in third place on the TAFL ladder and earns two chances in the finals.

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