Huddersfield Rams Australian Football Club v Manchester Mosquitoes match report (21st June 2014)
In the first of its kind in the North of England the Huddersfield Rams and the Manchester Mosquitoes Australian Football Clubs faced each other at Huddersfield YMCA on Saturday in the latest round of the AFLCNE league season. Extra spice was added to the contest with the knowledge that whoever was victorious would go top of the ladder and be in prime position for the end of season knock out stages, with only two games of the regular season to go. A great contest was on the cards, especially as Huddersfield fielded one of their strongest squads with five full England players and more potential future England representatives being names by Head Coach Jason Battye in his match day sixteen.
The Rams started very strong, battling at the breakdown and quickly supplying the forward line effectively. Graham Bickerdike looked dominant in the ruck, and The Rams looked confident at benefit from this throughout the game. As it was full-forward Danny Armitage scored as The Rams went ahead by two early goals. The Australian heavy Mosquitoes weathered the storm and started to get clean ball to their own impressive forward line as an over hyped Huddersfield squad began to make elementary errors, inviting the Mozzies onto them. Accuracy from the set shot pushed the visitors beyond the Rams’ score to give them an end of quarter twelve point 32-20 advantage.
The Rams battled to stay in contention in the second phase of the match with Matt Whiteley and Alex Overton trying to wrestle the momentum back to the Yorkshire side. However lapses in concentration and the regularity of being caught on the back foot meant that the Mozzies were able to keep pushing on and extend their lead. Karl Haigh, at full-forward, tried his best to keep the Rams side of the scoreboard moving with brave forward play, as did Luke Booth at half-forward. However the lapses and errors from the Rams meant that Manchester pushed their lead out to twenty-two points with a half-time score line of 60-38.
After a half-time re-evaluation by Head Coach Battye, The Rams took to the field with renewed vigour and optimism. A reorganised back three of Lewis Ozanne, Brandon Fletcher and Whiteley became more effective at shutting down the visitor’s main threats. Booth, Overton, and Bickerdike strangled the supply to the Mosquitoes forwards, and Haigh and Armitage began to hit the target up top for The Rams. Impressive dedication and commitment from all areas of the field enabled Huddersfield to outscore the league leaders 27 points to 1 to bring them to within just two points of the lead with two minutes to go until the end of the third quarter. Their tails were up, and it looked like the healthy crowd would be in for a barnstorming last quarter. However two fatigued lapses of concentration enabled Manchester to answer back with two goals themselves to ensure they still had a relatively healthy fourteen point 79-65 lead heading into the last 20 minutes of action.
A relaxed and confident three-quarter team talk prepared Huddersfield to capitalise on their impressive showing in the last quarter and push for that top of the table spot. From the first ball up though it was clear that Manchester still had a lot of running left in their locker as the ball burst from midfield and was slotted between the two uprights to kill off the enthusiasm that had grown in the home side. And this story continued for the remainder of the game as any battle that the Rams players had left in them was all in vain. Big hits from Stephen Hall, Regan Hargreaves, and Ethan Brady still ensured that the Manchester players knew that they had been in a tough game. Fletcher, at full-back, continued to put his body on the line all the way to the end against his more experienced Australian opponent, but a six goal to one impressive final phase performance from the Mozzies ultimately proved too much. The eventual final winning margin of forty-four points gave an artificial feel to the outcome, but it was testament to the Manchester players’ ability to stave off the Rams enthusiasm and desire through educated and controlled game play that to some degree justified the 118-74 score line. The Rams top performers on the day were Armitage, Booth, and Fletcher, with Armitage top scoring with five goals. However, the overriding outcomes of the game were how much both sets of players love to play this sport. The good competitive attitudes from all involved and the huge amount of respect shown from each team at the final whistle was authentication of the morals and unity regularly on show from this ever growing sport. For anyone who would like to have a taste of Aussie Rules they are free to join in The Rams’ Tuesday night (6.45, Huddersfield YMCA) training sessions where they will be warmly welcomed no matter what ability or fitness level they may possess. Huddersfield’s all British squad will have opportunity to once again push for a top four play-off spot when they face the Sheffield Thunder again at Huddersfield YMCA next Saturday (1.30pm ball-up).