Old Xaverians overcame a gritty challenge from winless Beaumaris to take the points in a very entertaining contest at Toorak Park today.
Xavs made six changes: Goss, Waller and Troiani were back after short absences, while Serafini and Josh Anderson were included for their first senior games of the year. Debuting was the smooth-moving Jayke Barrack.
Facing their third loss in as many outings, the Red 'n' Blacks had every reason to be worried as they went to the half with a 22 point deficit. Despite over-using the ball and covering much unnecessary territory, the home team's forwards functioned smoothly enough. The problem was that its opponent, for the entire first half and much of the third stanza, refused to roll over.
Instead, the Sharks played with resilience and purpose, hitting the contests hard and moving the ball quickly and directly. Presented with opportunities, the Beauy talls caused havoc with their strong marking and sharp shooting.
When Xavs hit the scoreboard, Beauy responded, often more than once, and thus built their lead incrementally. Xavs Coach McDonald told his team at the long break that the visitors were showing the greater mental toughness.
The Claret and Stout were more effective in the third term, with Matt Handley booting four, though the Sharks continued to press hard and keep the scoreboard ticking over. If the tide was indeed turning, it was a slow ebb rather than the tsunami that has wiped so many opponents.
The optimism around the lemon-time huddle evaporated when the former St Kilda goalsneak booted his second in the opening minute of the final stanza. The margin was again fifteen points. There were just four goals kicked for the rest of the quarter, and Xavs kicked them all.
The Red and blacks took over at the stoppages, winning clearances regularly for the first time all afternoon. Furious defence, especially from Ambrose, Noonan and the Human Hovercraft, Nick Serafini, stopped many Sharks' offensives and the appreciative link men lapped up the chances. Second-gamer, the silky Tom Gilbert goaled twice, Handley kicked his sixth and Tomi Johnston, who just kept going like the Energizer Bunny, quite appropriately kicked the sealer.
The narrow win allowed the Xavs to stay in third spot. At the top, previously undefeated Collegians tumbled to defeat at Dairy Bell. Both results underline the importance of keeping minds on the job. The Red 'n' Blacks are one step further away from relegation. Beaumaris remains anchored to the bottom, but if today's performance is any guide, the Sharks are ready to do some dining.
Old Xaverians 3.0-18 7.3-45 12.6-78 16.9-105
Beaumaris 4.4-28 10.7-67 13.9-87 14.12-96
Goal Kickers: M. Handley 6, B. Goss 4, T. Gilbert 3, C. Lane, T. Johnston, H. Troiani
Best Players: T. Johnston, M. Ambrose, C. Johnston, M. Handley, T. Gilbert, D. Noonan