It was a mixed day for the Men of Emmaus with the Reserves recording a dominant 62 point win whilst the Seniors saw a 28 point HT lead evaporate as they went down by 17 to Westbourne at Bennettswood Resesrve on the weekend.
It’s a loss the Seniors could barely afford, as their aspirations of a top 2 finish took a battering with the Animals now falling out of the top 4 altogether, heading into their second bye round of the year. The Reserves stayed the course, securing a spot in the 4 when the return in a fortnight.
The twos started slowly, despite having a clear upper hand. A quarter of wasted chances saw them only kick 1.4 for the quarter whilst holding the Warriors scoreless. Despite numerous entries in to the 50, a stoic West backline repelled til the first break in the hopes of a regroup and a counter.
Instead the Animals flexed their muscles and showed why some see them as a legitimate threat to the rest of the Reserves section. a 4 goal quarter where Tom Birkett showed glimpes of a return to form, whilst Joey Anker found the big sticks which drew the biggest reaction of the game.
By the half, the Animals had a solid 35 point lead, but they wanted more. Kicking 2 goals 6 to 2 goals in a term will extend your lead, but will also lead to frustration as well, as chance after chance went without capitalisation against a Westbourne team which found a slither of motivation after the half.
But a second 5 goal quarter in the final term was the tonic the Animals were after and an uncaged Tom Birkett found his 5th of the day to go with Zac Kearns and Jed Lehmann kicking two each to blow the scoreline out to a more expected result.
This set the scene for a Seniors team hurting after being rolled by Manningham. Missing captain Chris Beluszar and key defender Baxter Newbegin, Tom Shannon was brought in for some height whilst a return to Senior footy for Ray Kuhnell after starting the year in the Reserves saw his familiar hard ball game give the Animals a much needed grit lift.
It was an opening term the Animals looked to have squared away with a two goal advantage, after Jack Hunt goaled from a tight angle, and Hugh Schaeche sharked a stoppage beautifully. But after conceding a late behind, a turnover from the resulting kick out saw Westbourne narrow the gap to 4 points after the siren.
The Animals responded, and showed the kind of football we’ve expected in 2019. Nathan Bird revelled in his high forward role whilst Harry Davis latched on to one from distance and a six goal term saw the Blue and Blue with a comfortable lead at the big break.
However, this is a Warriors team that last week reversed a 3 goal deficit at the final break and turned it into a 4 goal win, giving them an extra quarter to mount their comeback was a mistake the Animals would live to regret as Westbourne kicked 5 straight to take the lead in the third term.
Up stepped Nathan Bird again to claw the Animals back in front, and an 11 point lead at three quarter time whilst not seeming insurmountable by any stretch, did seem like a lead the Animals could at least hold on to.
Alas, wayward kicking when the pressure mounted saw the Animals fall behind and Westbourne’s new recruit took control kicking a bag to drag the Warriors to a 17 point win, despite the Animals having large periods of domination.
It was a result which left the Animals shellshocked, and a bitter pill to mull over during their second bye week before hosting North Brunswick in a fortnight.