Tanunda survived their toughest challenge of the year defeating arch rival Nuriootpa by 24 points enroute to retaining the George Heath Cup.
Tanunda continued their trend of fast starts, building a 19-point lead by quarter time but the biggest blow of the first term was landed by Nuri when Daniel Bergen (known by many as ‘the portly gentleman’) had his world rocked by a monster shirtfront that forced the Tanunda defender to spend almost a quarter on the bench before returning to the fray.
“Paddy (Bergen) took a really big hit but the good thing about it was that he played the ball perfectly,” Ben Britton, Tanunda playing coach said.
“He put his head over it and was in control before the hit. That he came back on later says a lot about him.”
A Tiger resurgence in the second term was blunted by some poor finishing with centre half forward Sam Haniford kicking three points late in the period leaving Nuriootpa 11 points adrift at half time.
Barry Kaesler was the Pies leading light up forward where he finished with three goals but could easily have turned that into six or more.
At the other end of the field, Gareth Gann was again solid in defence and is slowly developing into a classy stopper, holding Nuri forward Ryan Byrne to just two goals after his 10 goal effort the previous week.
Nuri coach Nat Salter rated Byrne’s brother Jarrad’s game highly for his role shadowing Tanunda centre half forward Sam Agars, even when Agars went into the ruck.
“Jarrad did a great job on him,” Salter said.
“I thought Agars had no influence on the game at all, that was a key part of our plans on the day.”
In the third term it was Tanunda’s turn to waste opportunities as they kicked 3-5 but as has been the case all year, when their offence stutters the Tanunda defence led by Nick Schmidt held firm allowing Nuri just a single goal.
Nuri ruckman Duncan Cragg Sapsford was impressive matching Luke Wells at the centre bounce but couldn‘t compete one-on-one with Wells and the Tigers often had a third man up at the stoppages in an attempt to nullify the competition’s best player.
In yet another tweaking of his role, Andrew Prior was cast in a slightly different role as a dual centre half forward with Agars but pushing further up the field to provide a link between attack and defence with Agars staying closer to goal.
Tanunda wingman Leigh Westhoff was the best player on the field with his work rate separating him from other players and continues his red hot early season form.
“Tanunda were very good, they know each other inside out which is something we’re still looking to achieve,” Salter said.
“I learnt a lot from that game, having a number of new guys in the side I think we’ll be in for a good second half of the season we just need to make sure we’re on the better side of the win/loss ratio at the end of the first round.”
Nuriootpa’s task this week will be pretty formidable as they travel to play South Gawler who will be smarting after their loss at Kapunda.
Tanunda host Gawler Central in a game that should comfortably fall their way.