Waratah 2.2 9.3 15.6 21.7 (133)
Darwin Buffaloes 1.5 3.9 5.10 8.12 (60)
Waratah: Abraham Ankers 4, Sam Godden 3, Shem Tatupu 3, Tom Toma 3, Cameron Barrett, Brodie Carroll, Samuel Flanegan, Jordan Gardner, Kim Kantilla, Henry Kerinaiua, Brendon Minkulk, Zach Westerberg
Darwin Buffaloes: Jalen Clarke 3, Patrick Boles, Matt Campbell, Jackson Clark, Bryaden Culhane, Bradley Mitchell
In a repeat of Round 18, the Buffaloes were quick to jump out of the blocks but the clean ball handling and spread from Waratah had it on top and running away with the Elimination Final win.
The Buffs had the first couple of scoring opportunities and things looked promising when star forward Darryl White took a strong mark in the opening minute of the game but his shot was wayward and so too was their second attempt. The first to hit the scoreboard was the ever-reliable Abe Ankers who was on the receiving end of great work originally started by Tahs' B&F Sam Godden to keep the ball from going over the boundary on the forward flank. In a turnaround from last week's game, the Buffs won the next centre clearance but another point is what ensued. Some quick movement from the backline though, with returning player/coach Matt Campbell having his hand in proceedings, led to a beautiful, curling goal on the run to milestone man, Jalen Clarke. The Buffs had hit the front but it was short lived when in the 16th minute through Zach Westerberg was paid a free kick for over the shoulder contact and was subsequently gifted a 50m penalty that saw him kick truly from the goal square. At quarter-time the stats for clearances, inside 50s (12 apiece) are looking even, so will the Tahs pull away like they did this time last week?
The Buffs started the second quarter like they did the game, with the first couple of forward 50 entries that resulted in minor scores. Up the other end of the ground, Tatupu received a free kick for being held and the Tahs had the first goal of the second. Henry Kerinaiua and Sam Godden were next to score, both setshots that extended Waratah's lead to 20 points. The Tahs could've made it the first four goals in the opening nine minutes of the term, taking full advantage of the six forward 50 entries they'd had, but the attempt went wayward. Matt Campbell did his best to inspire his troops, making a defensive chase look easy and then keeping his feet, spinning and picking up the ball to move it forward. And just when the Buffs really needed a goal it was Jalen Clarke marking strongly again. A 50m penalty, in favour of Darwin this time, ensured he wouldn't miss. At the next centre throw-up, Brendon Minkulk worked his way from the wing to mark the ball 15 metres out on a slight angle and he too was on the board. The Tahs rolled on with the next two goals; the first going the way of Kim Kantilla who grabbed the crumbs and the second was set up by Sam Godden, who paddled and worked hard to keep the ball from a boundary throw-in in front of him, allowing it to tumble forward to Brodie Carroll who snapped from right in front. Things started to look like a repeat of last Saturday but thankfully for the Buffs they were gifted the next centre clearance through a free kick, and Darren Shillabeer worked hard to get the ball out of the back, and eventually into the hands of Patrick Boles who goaled just seconds before the siren.
The Tahs rolled on early in the third to notch up 10 goals and 10 individual goal kickers, with Cam Barrett adding his name to the scoresheet. Up the other end of the ground, it was Brayden Culhane who found his way through heavy feet in the goal square to get the footy onto his own foot and roll it through for a goal. The teams traded goals again, Sam Godden becoming the first Waratah player to kick two goals for the game before Jackson Clark had a quick run and snap that sailed through for Darwin. The Tahs then pressed on, getting on top in the centre clearances once more through the hard work of Sam Godden and Abe Ankers, which allowed them to kick their way to a 50-point margin. Shem Tatupu kicked two of the next three goals, his second one in the 22nd minute especially impressive, while Ankers added more gloss to his form with a goal on the run. Just before the siren Tom Toma marked from a Buffs defensive kick and when he kicked after the buzzer, the Tahs fans were up and about cheering.
The Tahs live to fight another day! At the start of the final quarter, the Buffs needed 10 goals and to hold the Tahs scoreless. Star forward Darryl White looked out of sorts and in pain but things started well when Jalen Clarke popped up for his third goal, trying to urge his team on in his 100th game. As expected, the Tahs won the next centre clearance and moved the footy forward quickly but this time the Buffs' defenders were up to the task. They couldn't hold Waratah for long though when in the sixth minute Abe Ankers ran into his third goal from 45 metres out which was quickly followed by the next centre clearance (through a free kick) and Sam Godden kicked on the outside of his left foot for his third goal also. In the best for the Buffs most of the game, Matt Campbell had a long shot on goal that rolled through to notch up 50 points for Darwin. It was looking like an even quarter but the Tahs work rate and use of the ball got on top once more and a square kick to Tom Toma had him kicking from right in front, 30 metres out and collecting goal 18. Another shining light for the Buffs, Jalen Clarke refused to give in and had three more shots on goal to add to the three he had already kicked, but they all missed. Toma made it two-in-a-row when he took advantage of a Buffs' defensive blunder and Ankers followed up with his fourth from the right boundary, to become the highest goalkicker on the ground. Brad Mitchell kicked a consolation goal for the Buffs but again the Tahs won the next centre clearance, Barrett clearing to James Wray who had Jordan Gardner running on the outside and able to use his left foot to become the 12th goal kicker for the team.
Southern Districts 4.4 7.2 8.4 10.5 (65)
Tiwi Bombers 2.2 3.5 8.6 13.8 (86)
Southern Districts: Shane Thorne 2, Steve Rusca 2, Ed Barlow, Will Farrer, Clinton Gallio, Jess Koopman, Rory O'Brien, Dean Staunton
Tiwi Bombers: Ross Tungatalum 5, Austin Wonaeamirri 4, Dion Munkara, Simon Munkara, Harley Puruntatameri, Adam Tipungwuti
The Crocs played at a frenetic pace to get the early lead but the Bombers did what they do best, storming home to snatch victory in the Qualifying Final.
The Tiwi Bombers came out firing and had the first few entries into the forward line but the Crocs defence scrambled well and it wasn't until Aussie Wonaeamirri had a set shot from outside 50 and rode the wind with his kick that the Bombers looked like scoring. However, the Crocs' big ruckman Seb Guilhaus was an unmoveable figure on the goal line and he was able to reach up and touch the ball over. And just like that the Crocs were able to move the ball forward with great transition and their first forward 50 entry resulted in their first goal, Steve Rusca shovelling the ball between legs to Ed Barlow who didn't bother to pick the footy up but soccered it through. That ignited the Crocs who then quickly kicked the next two goals through Rusca and Shane Thorne, to skip out to a 17-point lead. The Bombers hit back though, Simon Munkara and Adam Tipungwuti linking up in their usual magical way, with Tipungwuti kicking Tiwi's first goal from a setshot just inside the right boundary. Ross Tungatalum had the next two chances to kick goals, his first attempt going through for a minor score but his pressure on the Crocs defenders resulted in a goal the second time around. Not to be outdone, Crocs captain Will Farrer shrugged off his back troubles by reaching for a mark in the goal square which he was able to goal from just shortly before the siren.
The start of the second quarter had both midfield groups firing but locked in an arm wrestle for momentum. Aussie Wonaeamirri was the first goal kicker of the term, this time his long bomb on goal sailing through the middle to get the Bombers the ideal start and making it only a five-point deficit. But as he did in the first, Shane Thorne kicked a goal for the Crocs before Steve Rusca found himself loose in the forward line and was able to convert from a 45-metre set shot right in front. As the quarter wore on Southern Districts kept getting first use of the ball through Seb Guilhaus's ruck work, which was followed up nicely around the ground with Josiah Farrer's run, chase and pressure. Sam Dyke was doing well to keep the Bombers defenders on task but there wasn't much they could do when Jess Koopman was paid a free kick for a push in the back right in front of goal. He kicked the Crocs' seventh for the game, while up the other end of the ground Simon Munkara looked to be the most dangerous Tiwi forward but it didn't convert to scoreboard pressure.
The Tiwi Bombers were under assault in the opening couple of minutes of the second half and the margin jumped out to 27-points when Rory Baird marked 40 metres out on the slightest of angles and was able to convert, riding the strong wind home. An astute move by the Bombers saw Christian Burgess and Ashton Hams move to play around the footy instead of in front and behind it, and the impact was immediate. In a matter of two minutes, Ross Tungatalum had two goals, both set shots and by the sixth-minute the Crocs were cut back to only a 15-point lead. As the threat of a storm loomed large around Marrara, a surge in favour of the Bombers felt like it was coming. Michael Bowden was standing tall down back for the Crocs and no further scores were added to either team for the next 10 minutes. Enter Adam Tipungwuti with good run and bounce down the wing (some shouting "too far") to hit up Aussie Wonaeamirri, who kicked his second goal. Much to the delight of a packed TIO Stadium the Bombers kept going, kicking the next two goals. The first was a beautiful mark in a one-on-one contest in the goal square to Simon Munkara, before a reset in the middle fed the ball out and it ended with Wonaeamirri marking, turning and snapping. By the start of the 22nd minute the Bombers had a one-point lead and could've stretched it to seven had Simon Munkara's set shot from the 50 been a little further to the right.
The Bombers will face Nightcliff next week for a spot in this season’s Grand Final!! The Crocs got off to the ideal start in the final term, Dean Staunton marking from 35 metres out and kicking truly under pressure but the Bombers held their own cool heads, the Aussie Wonaeamirri goal in the fourth minute getting the crowd up on their feet. Wonaeamirri first had a foot race with the younger Zach Smith, to who his credit hadn't done much wrong all game, and then the Bomber used his bigger body to push Smith over near the left point post, collect the ball on the way up and run into the open goal. This spectacle was equally matched two and a bit minutes later when Ross Tungatalum converted a free kick that came from an out of bounds kick over the left boundary. Rocco backed it up with another beautiful set shot, this time from on the 50 slightly to the left and was joined by Harley Puruntatameri on the goalkicker's list when he kicked a similar goal from closer to the right boundary and only 40 metres out. Not ones to give up the Crocs engine room got to work, Ed Barlow and Clinton Gallio trying to get the ball out of the middle and forward at all costs. As Gallio's efforts increased he earned himself a setshot on goal which he kicked in the 15th minute to make it only a 14-point game in favour of Tiwi. The rest of proceedings played out at pace, as it had been all game but just before the siren Dion Munkara collected at the back of a pack, ran into a goal and celebrated in emphatic style, running around the boundary and down the field back to the centre square.