Huddersfield Rams Australian Football Club v Manchester Mosquitoes match report (26th July 2014)
The Huddersfield Rams Australian Rules Football Club came up short in their bid to be league Premiers for the first time since 2009 when they went down 107 – 69 against the Manchester Mosquitoes in Sheffield at the weekend.
The Mosquitoes, boasting the strongest squad of the competition, had fielded fourteen Australian players through the course of the season so Rams Head Coach Jason Battye new that his players had to push their abilities to their maximum if they were going to be a competitive foe for this clash. His squad boasted seven current or previous internationals including Full-Forwards Danny Armitage and Luke Booth, who had both kicked eight and seven goals respectively in the previous week’s semi-final triumph over Nottingham Scorpions. The squad also included four players from the club’s successful Greenhead Park introductory sessions in February whom had enjoyed a great season which had seen their skills develop from the rudimentary right through to being able to contribute to a Grand Final team.
A very strong start from the Rams gave them the advantage early on as Armitage and Booth scored when profiting from the intensity around the breakdown of midfielders Sam Gill, Alex Overton, Graham Bickerdike, and James Clayton. Overton kept the points ticking over when he snapped a great goal that belied his 17 years of age illustrating verve and nous on the ball to cut back inside and split the posts from distance. Once again Rams Full-back Brandon Fletcher was up against another strong opponent when he took on the league’s top scorer. He competed very effectively throughout the game both in the aerial contest as well as the breakdown, keeping the Mosquito player less influential on the scoreboard as he had been to all teams throughout the season. The two teams traded goals as the Rams just edged the first quarter 22-20.
Things continued in a similar vein in the second period when Captain Matt Whiteley began finding loose ball at Half-back and effectively sending probing passes into the Rams attacking third. He supplied Karl Haigh who used his experience to calm down the play before slotting in from close range. Manchester kept in contention themselves as their superior game nous enabled them to continue to eke out opportunities and keep a hold on the Rams coat tails. Robbie Wilson scored for Huddersfield and Young Rams Ruckman Robert Yates was overjoyed to grab himself a Grand Final goal when he put one over from a set shot thirty metres out later in the second quarter. He was joined on the score sheet by another first year player, Half-forward Ethan Brady, who picked up the crumbs from a contested mark to kick a clean 6-pointer right on the siren. This gave The Rams an unexpected half-time lead of 48 points to 44.
Talk in the changing rooms was all about maintaining the momentum as well as trying to control the ball in the energy sapping heat as Coach Battye was all too aware of the Manchester players’ higher knowledge and experience of these situations as they played their fourth Grand Final in five years. The hope was that Huddersfield could keep in contention and then go all out in the last quarter. Armitage did score for the Rams, but inaccurate kicking and tiredness started to impact upon the game. Overton, Whiteley, and Fletcher battled bravely, but the higher quality of the opposition and their experience from playing the sport in Aus always meant that they held the advantage over the Huddersfield players. The Mosquitoes scored 28 points to the Rams 9 in this quarter to illustrate their acceleration ahead.
A similar pattern continued in the final quarter as missed kicks at goal and fatigue meant that the Rams could never regain their footing and battle back in to contention. Armitage scored his third goal right at the end to be the Rams top scorer on the day, but as the final siren sounded Manchester were crowned the deserved Champions of the season. Rams star performer on the day was Matt Whiteley, who also received the excellent news after the match that he was voted the joint winner of the “Best British Player” award during the league’s end of season awards. Coach Battye reflected on the Rams achievement of making the Grand Final as being one of massive pride and progression for the club. He has overseen the development of an all-English squad from fresh faced newcomers to hardened Grand Final runners-up, and he is confident of his squad having an impact in an England Dragonslayer’s international jersey in the not too distant future. The Rams will continue to train throughout the off-season and express an invite to all local sportspeople to come down and give this excellently inclusive activity a go. The Rams can be contacted through various avenues over the Internet.