Ryan 'Byrnes' Central

HIGH JUMP: Nuriootpa ruckman Duncan Cragg-Sapsford jumps high over Gawler Central’s Ben Tobbitt while Nuriootpa’s Jarrad O’Riley prepares to take advantage of the knock forward. Umpire Ian Dew is in control watching the action.
HIGH JUMP: Nuriootpa ruckman Duncan Cragg-Sapsford jumps high over Gawler Central’s Ben Tobbitt while Nuriootpa’s Jarrad O’Riley prepares to take advantage of the knock forward. Umpire Ian Dew is in control watching the action.

Although trailing at three-quarter time, Nuriootpa won the battle of the Tigers when it stormed home with seven last term goals to beat Gawler Central by 37 points, in Saturday’s BL&GFA clash at Gawler Oval.

Nuriootpa spearhead Ryan Byrne had a day out booting 10 goals.

The game could have been all but over in the first term, as a wasteful Nuriootpa managed only three goals from 11 scoring shots, to lead by 17 points at the first break.

A fired-up home side then booted five majors in the second quarter to lead by a point at the long break, with an even third stanza leaving the status quo - Central still in front by a point at lemons.

Nuriootpa peppered the goals in the final quarter, with 12 scoring shots, for a return of 7-5 to sprint away from the tenacious home Tigers.

“We started well and should have had the game sewn up by quarter time, but missed too many easy shots,” Nuriootpa coach Nat Salter said.

“The middle quarters were tight, then we got back to how we played in the first, but with a bit more accuracy.

“Everyone’s disappointed that we blew a good start, and we were beaten at the contest between the first and final terms, which is something we pride ourselves on.

“I think everyone was looking forward to Tanunda the following week and thought we would win against Central, but they are always hard to beat there.”

A good sign for Nuri though was the fitness level is good, because it has run both games it has played this season out well, and to pull away after being threatened is character building.

Even though losing for the third consecutive week, Central showed enough competitiveness to signal a win isn’t too far away.

With three first-gamers and six players under 18, the home side is building a strong foundation for the future.

“We were great for three quarters,” Central coach Damien Herzick said. “As has been the case most of the season though, we were close for most of the game, with quality shining through. But we will be better with some more experience.

“As for Byrne, we just had no one to match up with him, as Matty Gibson was unavailable and we struggled to stem his influence - he was the major difference.”

For Central, Ben Tobitt worked hard in ruck against a taller opponent, while forward Paul Bova worked down the field to help lift his side.

First gamers Brad Hunt, Rhys Kalic and Peter Bradtke all played important parts and will be given further opportunities.

Byrne was a shining light for Nuri, kicking all five of his side’s majors in the first half on the way to double figures. Billy Nicholls and Salter led from the front at the stoppages, while defenders Cale Ellison and Aaron Modistach were miserly all game.

This Saturday Central has a bye, while Nuriootpa hosts top of the table Tanunda.