The noble old John Foord Bridge connects Wahgunyah and Corowa ; Victoria and New South Wales. Upon traversing it, the sight of the Mighty Murray and the surrounding, superbly-manicured parklands, never cease to impress.

Yesterday, literally hundreds of corollas dotted the grassy landscape, then swept up into the towering gum trees of the John Foord Oval, where, screeching and squawking, they presided over the O & M clash between Corowa-Rutherglen and Wangaratta Rovers.

The Hawks had enjoyed a euphoric week, following their dramatic win over arch rivals, Wangaratta. One sensed that they needed to guard against complacency six days later, as they geared up for the encounter with the bottom-of the-table Kangaroos.

The boys from the border are always hard to shake off at home. Despite a winless season, their form hasn’t been all that bad. To me, to be quite frank, the game spelt “Danger”.

And that’s how it panned out.

The Rovers had a goal on the board within minutes of the commencement of play and appeared to be in complete control. The Roos nailed one, the Hawks replied with a couple and thereby maintained a 2-3 goal ascendancy throughout most of the first half.

But they were unable to establish anything resembling a comfortable lead. Inaccuracy around goal plagued their best endeavours and kept their opponents within reach.

Sam Carpenter, who, by the quarter-time break, had been confined to the bench with a hamstring twinge, was accompanied by young gun Connor Shanley, nursing a foot complaint.

‘Carps’ warned of the perils of giving a young side a ‘sniff’ by turning over the ball. Perhaps the flagrant over-use of the pill hinted at a lack of respect for the Roos. Whatever, they were still hot on the Hawks’ tails and by half-time trailed by only 19 points.

The discrepancy in the scoring shots at this stage, was 14 to 5.

A magnificent performance in defence by Michael Clarke was proving a stand-out for the Hawks. He has been a revelation this season and has received yeoman support from tall, under-rated Coen Hennessey.

‘Pup’s’ appearance in this clash drew a couple of members of the famous Gayfer footballing clan from the other side of the river to run the rule over their young relative. They would have been suitably impressed.

He’s a good judge of a marking contest, ever-willing to punch if necessary, and doesn’t mind embarking on a bit of a run if the opportunity permits. In a couple of words, he’s ‘strong and safe’.

Veteran Sean O’Keeffe was again producing another of his top-shelf performances and was his usual steadying influence in defence.

The warnings of the Hawk heirarchy that they would need to sharpen their game proved spot-on.

At one stage in the third term, after they had booted a couple of quick goals, the lead had stretched out to 28 points. Were they about to blow the game wide-open ?

Far from it. By three quarter-time the margin had been reduced to 10 points.

The Roos were now playing desperate football, inspired by a couple of unknowns in Bill Hansen and Sam Harvey, talented Jay O’Donoghue and Tyson Logie and a presentable target in Leigh Schmidt.

They indeed could smell an upset and the sight of Rovers powerhouse Shane Gaston hobbling from the ground with a damaged ankle would have given them further reason for confidence.

The Hawks now needed to dig deep. They had no bench and were confronted by a revitalised home combination.

That they produced some courageous, old-fashioned, scrapping stuff in a contest that was to go right down to the wire, was a credit to them.

Ryan Cobain, who appeared out of sorts early in the game, gave a lift and looked much more comfortable when slotted back onto a wing.

They had to improvise in the ruck with Hennessey and James Smith, at times, but still missed some vital opportunities in front of goal which would have provided breathing space in that hectic final term.

Dan McCullough had heaps of the ball during the day and finished with four goals, He and Dylan Stone, with three, were the main goalkickers. But ‘Chopper’ would have enjoyed a field day had he converted a few of his other chances.

He’d be cursing the successive shots he had early in the final term, from an identical position, which fell away.

When Nick Cox marked strongly and kicked poorly from close range, it seemed that the Hawks were going to kick the game away. But Matt Smith snuck one through to stretch the lead out to two kicks.

Youngster Tristan Lenaz was another who desperately tried to influence the game in the dying stages with some strong physical work in attack.

But still the Roos kept coming. The final few minutes were a classic arm-wrestle, with play predominantly in the Corowa-Rutherglen forward half. It was so desperate that you feared a piercing blow of the whistle and an errant free kick in those scrimmages could decide the game.

The final scoring shot was a rushed Roo behind. The crowd held its collective breath………another pack formed…..bodies desperately scrambled for the ball……the siren blew.

The Hawks had escaped with a courageous, if somewhat lucky, four-point win.










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