THE Northern Blues went down by 17 points at the hands of Box Hill at Box Hill City Oval on Sunday afternoon.
With Northern looking to rebound from the last fortnight, it was a must-win game for the Blues if they were to keep their finals aspirations alive.
Both sides came in the Round 20 clash evenly matched: despite some encouraging signs early in the game, the Blues would ultimately fall in a narrow loss to their hosts.
It was an encouraging opening quarter by the Blues, controlling the play and possession from the opening bounce. Northern’s link-up play coming out of defence in the first term led by Angus Schumacher and Liam Stocker had real purpose and intent, while David Cunningham’s tackling pressure and clearance work around the contest on return was a real positive for Northern. Tom De Koning was also a threat up forward as well as across the ground, kicking the opening goal of the game after a strong mark. It saw the Blues lead by nine points at the opening change, with the aid of a heavy breeze.
The forward tackling pressure from the onset of the second term by Northern was outstanding, resulting in the first goal of the quarter through Cameron Polson. Northern’s defensive structures and pressure held firm initially, but with the wind at their backs, Box Hill eventually broke through and made it count. The Hawks took full advantage with quick ball movement through the corridor, kicking five consecutive goals to take an 18-point lead into the main change. Young VFL-listed defender Kye Quirk - grandson of Carlton premiership star, Bryan - was a shining light in defence, collecting 19 disposals to the main break.
Northern came out of the half-time break looking to get back to the intensity and tackling pressure around the contest that had them in front for the majority of the first half. After the Hawks got the first of the third quarter, the Blues eventually broke their drought through Sam Fisher. It sparked a Blues comeback, kicking five unanswered goals of their own to regain the lead. With one of the last kicks of the term, Alex Fasolo’s first major saw the Blues take a seven-point lead into the final change.
Northern came out of the break with an attacking mindset, but a tough early chance for Fasolo went begging. It sparked the Hawks into action, who regained control of possession and once again dominated the territory in a game dictated by the breeze. Jesse Palmer battled hard to create some spark going forward, but after some early inaccuracy, three late goals from the Hawks saw them come away with a 17-point win.
BOX HILL HAWKS 1.2 6.9 7.13 10.22 (82)
NORTHERN BLUES 2.5 3.9 8.14 8.17 (65)
Northern Blues: Polson 2, De Koning, Fasolo, Fisher, Owies, Palmer Phillips
Northern Blues: Quirk, De Koning, Cuningham, Goddard, Stocker, Polson