Eagles keep undefeated record in tact with nail-biting win over Mundulla

Damian Wenham Crop Dsc 854020190518  TBW Newsgroup
KICK: Penola's Damien Wenham breaks free of the Mundualla defenders as the Eagles claimed a hard-fought victory on Saturday. Picture: THOMAS MILES

Damian Wenham Crop Dsc 854020190518 TBW Newsgroup
KICK: Penola’s Damien Wenham breaks free of the Mundualla defenders as the Eagles claimed a hard-fought victory on Saturday. Picture: THOMAS MILES

A GRADE – PENOLA 9.10 (64) d MUNDULLA 7.12 (54)

PENOLA has set the bar for the 2019 Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara A Grade football season after a win over the previous ladder leader and reigning premier Mundulla on Saturday.

The round six clash saw the Eagles claim the win by 10 points and take top spot as a result, despite having played one less game than the Tigers.

However, the result did not come easy, as the Eagles had to fight to stay in front throughout the contest.

Right until the closing minutes the game was in the balance, with the Tigers ahead as the clock wound down.

In the end it was Adam Merrett who claimed two valuable possessions, converting one from a set shot in the pocket about 40 metres from goals, with a further where he ran around the mark into goal to seal the deal.

Coach Matt Tilby said he was pleased to see the ball in Merrett’s hands when the result was on the line.

He said it showed the character of the forward when the pressure was on.

“I think you find the good players will stand up when they need to,” he said.

“Adam is one of those.

“They are pretty good hands to have the ball in and were both important goals.

“Adam is a beautiful kick of the footy so I was happy to see it in his hands.”

Early in the contest the Eagles were out to a handy lead, but the Tigers closed that down and by half time there was nothing in the contest.

Tilby said his players had chances to increase the lead in the second term but failed to take those.

“Mundulla worked very hard and matched us for fitness across the board, right throughout the game really, with the pressure and intensity,” he said.

“They spread really well and have some good footballers.

“We just failed to capitalise on our opportunities in that second quarter.”

Spearhead forwards Adam and Brad Merrett were limited to seven goals between them, which Tilby said came from a number of reasons.

“The pressure came from up the ground, as well as in the forward 50,” he said.

“They have a good structure and were undefeated until Saturday.

“They were last year’s premiers so they are a well drilled outfit.

“The pressure on the guys down the field to get the disposal created not ideal delivery inside.

“They were a formidable outfit.”

Tilby said he was pleased with the effort of his back six, with Alex Moore holding James Hinge goal-less for the game.

Hinge sat on 21 season goals before the game and was unable to add to that tally.

“Alex Moore was best on ground for us,” Tilby said.

“He was sensational.

“He played a huge role on Hinge and his work rate and abilities around the competition were great.

“Simon Berkefeld had a great game again.

“Brad Bryant was sensational.

“He gives us so much drive of half back and has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season.

“Young Harry Porter did a great job down back as well.

“He is so tough and disciplined back there.

“Jesse Martin gave us good run out of there and Jacob Pfitzner was great.”

While the game was in the balance at the final break, Tilby said there was plenty of confidence in the huddle.

He said he backed his players’ fitness level and knew they could run the game out.

“I was confident we could get the job done and the feel among the boys was the same,” he said.

“We knew they were not going to hand it to us and we had to work hard for it.

“It took us until the last couple of minutes to get there, but to our guys credit we were able to grind it out.”