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VFL: Blues fall at final hurdle

Nick Graham led the way for the Northern Blues with 26 disposals. (Photo: Jason Heidrich)
Nick Graham led the way for the Northern Blues with 26 disposals. (Photo: Jason Heidrich)

In consecutive weeks, the Northern Blues fell at the final hurdle, going down by 23 points against Port Melbourne at North Port Oval on Anzac Day.

Faultless effort from the Blues wasn’t enough against a Borough side which ran away with the game in the last quarter to win 15. 14. (104) to 11. 15. (81) after a tremendous third term saw the Blues draw within two points at the final break.

Seeing 93 games of VFL experience move up to the AFL side and after the heartbreak of Round 1, it was a bitter pill to swallow for the Blues, who were right in the game until the final moments before Port kicked away late.

Four goals from Port youngster Blake Pearson proved the difference in the end, as Northern threatened to win a game full of ebbs and flows between both sides at different times.

Matthew Watson (three goals) proved to be the focal point up forward especially early, with two first-quarter goals making him look particularly dangerous.

Some ill-discipline from the Blues wasn’t fully capitalised on in the first term by Port, with inaccuracy seeing it take a 13-point lead into quarter time.

The second quarter typified the game as a whole; Port threatened to run away with it on several occasions before some pure grit from the Blues kept the visitors right in the contest.

A renewed sense of vigour and outstanding pressure at the coalface brought the Blues right back into the contest in the third term, with five goals to two bringing the margin to under a kick at the final change.

For the second consecutive week, the Blues had an incredibly tight last quarter in store: however, having lost a wealth of experience during the week, they were ultimately overrun by a more-experienced Port Melbourne outfit.

The Blues’ willingness at the clinches was the main instigator behind their third term revival, after a half-time rev-up from coach Luke Webster saw a 20-point half-time deficit eradicated almost instantly.

Nick Graham (26 disposals) and Sam Cattapan (25) battled manfully all afternoon in the middle of the ground, thanks largely due to the good work of Rob Warnock (35 hit outs and 19 disposals) in the ruck.

The game wasn’t bereft of feeling, with spot-fires lighting up all over the ground throughout the day with Nick Holman - who did a terrific job on James Magner (16 disposals) - often at the bottom of the pack.

Both Blues vice-captains were generals in their areas, with Kieran McGuinness (24 possessions) superb in rebounding from defensive 50, while Tom Wilson (23 and a goal) was again one of the Blues' better performers.

Carlton rookie defenders Tom Fields (on ex-Brisbane Lions forward Jordan Lisle) and Bill Gowers also performed strongly after slow starts.

Speaking post-match, Warnock commended his side’s effort but admitted a second straight narrow loss was disappointing.

“The boys absolutely went down swinging which is a positive, and we’re learning from the things we aren’t doing so well and improving in the process is the main thing,” Warnock said.

“While not getting the four points hurts, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and the results will come.”

Warnock spoke of the third quarter as a major positive, not only to take out of the contest but also in terms of the bigger picture for the season ahead.

“We started getting our hands on the ball first and began using it a lot better in the third term: if we put in performances like that consistently it holds us in good stead, in the grand scheme of things, he said.

“There were a lot of changes to the side compared to last week so we’ll regroup, players will come in who will know their role and we’ll come out next week against Sandringham looking for the four points.”

The Northern Blues’ search for their first win of 2015 continues next week at Trevor Barker Beach Oval, coming up against the Zebras next Sunday at 2pm.

PORT MELBOURNE 4.8   8.10   10.12   15. 14. (104)
NORTHERN BLUES 3.1   5.8   10.10   11. 15. (81)

GOALS
PORT MELBOURNE: Pearson 4, Sandilands 2, Lisle 2, Carter-Taylor 2, Cain, Purcell, Haretuku, Dickson, O’Sullivan
NORTHERN BLUES: Watson 3, Murray 2, Wilson 2, Foster, Graham, Perry, Viojo-Rainbow.

BEST
PORT MELBOURNE: Pearson, Cain, Noonan, Sandilands, Batsanis, Johnson
NORTHERN BLUES: Wilson, Graham, Warnoclk, Holman, McGuinness, Gowers