The Energy Safe Vic Country Under 19s squad have retained the Under 19s Challenge Cup with a thrilling four-point win over the VAFA on Saturday afternoon. Jake Morris reports.
In wet and greasy conditions at Frankston Oval, the very best young talent from country Victoria held off a fast finishing VAFA outfit in what was an outstanding display of skill and class from both sides. The final score: 9.13. 67 to 9.9. 63.
A goal from St. Joeseph’s Jackson McLachlan half-way through the last-term gave the Vic Country side a comfortable 29-point lead before an onslaught led by VAFA sharpshooter Alessandro Mastromanno brought his side back to almost pip the country side on the siren.
Karingal’s Jake Kelly was extraordinary up forward, booting two while having an incredible presence in the forward half, while Shepparton’s Luke Smith popped up for two of his own to help starve off a gallant VAFA side.
Vic Country captain Shaun Mannagh electrified the midfield in a best on ground performance while Shaun Downie, Matthew LaFontaine and Jack Blood were solid contributors for Vic Country’s fourth consecutive Under 19 Challenge Cup win.
Head coach Damian Sexton gave his side a lot of credit in the victory, despite almost coughing up a four-goal lead with just under 10 minutes to go.
“Our blokes were committed all day and took our chances throughout the match, which gave us the very small buffer at the end of the game,” he said.
“We got 29 points up and just thought it was going to happen and fell asleep, but to our credit, the boys performed in the first three quarters and we got the win, that’s all that matters.”
In what was a hotly contested and scrappy opening term, the Vic Country boys jumped out to an early 21-point lead thanks to goals from Shaun Mannagh, Nick Carlon and Brad Melville, before a late goal from VAFA help draw the margin back to a 14-point deficit at quarter time.
The second quarter, like the first, was dominated by Vic Country, managing to lock their opponents in their forward-50 for majority of the quarter, restricting the VAFA to just two goals in the second term.
Despite controlling possession and looking like blowing the game wide open, Country only managed to kick two themselves, continuing to hold a steady 14-point lead heading into the main break, 5.8. 38 to 3.6. 24.
Karingal football club star Jake Kelly continued his excellent game, booting the opening goal of the third term to push Vic Country out to a 21-point lead.
Back-to-back goals from VAFA forward Alessandro Mastromanno helped keep the Ammos in touch before two brilliant efforts from Hamish Coulton and Ned Nihill help lead the Vic Country boys to a 23-point margin entering the final change.
The Vic Country boys held a comfortable 29-point lead half-way through the last but in a matter of minutes, that lead was dwindled down to just four as Mastromanno continued to show his worth, booting two in the final quarter and five for the game.
Despite the efforts of Old Melburnians star Tom Cameron, the VAFA ran out of time to clinch a come from behind victory. Vic Country registering their fourth consecutive Challenge Cup trophy to the tune of 9.13. 67 to 9.9. 63.
BEST ON GROUND:
BOG: Shaun Mannagh
VAFA Best Player: Tom Cameron
VIC COUNTRY Best Player: Sean Downie (Peter Knights Medal)