For the first time this season, Old Xaverians strung together four competitive quarters, and in the process, handed Uni Blues a 52 point hiding at Toorak Park today.
After last week's dispiriting loss to Old Scotch, Xavs needed to re-assess their approach to defence and ensure that the lapses that have threatened to derail the season were eliminated. Against the Varsity, whose forward line is loaded with talent and scoring options, containment over the afternoon was always going to be a challenge.
The return of skipper Dan Noonan added some height and strength to the back six, but it was the added resolve of all twenty-two that set the table for the victory.
The home team wasted no time in going forward, dominating the opening phase. But the Blues defence held firm. After ten minutes under immense pressure, the visitors got off the chain, went forward and goaled.
But Xavs responded with fury. Golds, Batten, Handley and Ralph all kicked truly and the X-Men closed out the first term with a solid lead. It would have been more, but for the first of two disallowed goals, both of them decisions that were, at best, questionable.
The second term was a dour affair, a battle of the defences. When Blues threatened, they looked slick enough until the daring Xaverian defenders bounced them and sent the ball back with system and skill.
Similarly, a number of Xavs' forward forays were foiled on the last line, but Matt Merlo bombed one from distance The Red 'n' Black midfield was warming to its work, with Holmes dominating the air against big opponents.
After half-time, that on-ball unit exploded, running in waves, sharing the ball and smashing it through the sticks with abandon. Troiani and Symeopolous, playing his best game of the year, torched a nervous Blues defence with their speed and it rained goals, despite the Glimmer Twins up front being tightly (and often too tightly) held. Troiani goaled on the siren to put the Claret in Stout in front by 59 points, uncharted territory for this team. Twelve goals from twelve goalkickers underlined the dominance.
The last term was all about pride for the visitors. Xavs had already lost Douglas and BNoonan for the afternoon, and Troiani's reign of terror ended early in the final stanza.
Still, there were others to pick up the slack. Handley booted two more and gifted the speedy Symeopoulos with a lightning handball that enabled the Sizzling Souvlaki to add his name to the scorer's list.
Chris Margin just failed to nail the goal of the year after running about 120 metres before having a ping that only just missed.. He had stopped a Blues sortie, then generated attack. He was involved several times as the ball moved forward and then ended up with it in space, too much space as it transpired, and the Sherrin flew wide.
The result lifts the Red 'n' Blacks to seventh position, with De La Salle falling into eighth courtesy of their poor percentage. A trip to TH King is next on the Xavs' agenda following next week's bye. At 3-6, the season is still very much alive, and if the team plays with the same ardour that it did today, there will be no ceiling on its ambitions.
Old Xaverians 4.3-27 5.6-36 12.8-80 15.11-101
University Blues 1.3-9 2.8-20 2.9-21 6.13-49
Goal Kickers: M. Handley 3, B. Goss, T. Golds, D. Symeopoulos, B. Kennedy, C. Johnston, M. Batten, M. Margin, T. Johnston, M. Merlo, L. Denton, H. Troiani, S. Ralph
Best Players: D. Symeopoulos, J. Holmes, T. Johnston, C. Margin, L. Tiernan, L. Denton