St Mary’s hold top spot

Matt Hewson

St Mary’s managed to hold on for the win away against Newtown and Chilwell on Saturday despite star midfielder Harry Benson leaving the ground with a broken jaw early in the first quarter.

The victory keeps St Mary’s in top spot on the Geelong Football League ladder, four points clear of Colac Tigers and now eight points ahead of Newtown & Chilwell.

After a tight first quarter the Saints managed to get out to a four-goal lead by half time, but a strong push from the Eagles in the third quarter reduced the margin to just five points at the final break.

St Mary’s looked in trouble when Newtown & Chilwell went two goals ahead midway through the last term, but the visitors managed to wrest back momentum, tying the game up late in the quarter with a set-shot goal from Harrison Kol.

Zak Sherman sealed a dramatic victory for the Saints, kicking a late goal from open play to put the visitors up 11.16 (82) to 11.10 (76).

Benson, the 2021 Mathieson medallist, is likely to miss between six to 10 weeks with the injury, which coach Glenn Keast said took some of the shine off the victory.

“It was a bit bittersweet after losing Harry to a collision in the first couple of minutes of the game,” he said.

“It’s great to get the win, but disappointing to lose one of our prime movers.”

Keast said losing Benson in the rotations may have contributed to his midfield players’ apparent fatigue through the third quarter, which gave the Eagles an opportunity to fight their way back into the contest.

“Before half time we certainly had the game on our terms, so we were quite happy with where we were positioned at half time,” he said.

“Being a player short from the start of the game probably hurt our midfield a bit, and they started to fatigue through the third quarter.

“We just dropped off and allowed Newtown some uncontested footy in the third, which let them get back into the game.”

Keast said his other midfielders had dug deep through the latter stages of the game to help get the Saints over the line, and highlighted the efforts of captain Jack Blood and recently returned Jarryd Garner.

“Jack was certainly our best player. Obviously losing Harry early, we needed a few to step up, and he led from the front,” he said.

“Jarryd was one of our better players as well. It was only his third game back from a long lay-off with a hamstring strain, so it’s great to see him up and about again.”

St Mary’s are firm favourites this week against St Alban’s, a side yet to record a victory this season, but Keast said his side could not be complacent.

“It’s an interesting one, there are no easy games, but clearly this is a game we should win,” he said.

“We need to be mature enough to win the game, to concentrate on getting the job done.

“But we’ll probably change a few things up this week and perhaps give some different blokes an opportunity, which will hopefully freshen some others up a bit and get them right for the run home.”

In other games around the league, Colac defeated Lara, Leopold beat Bell Park, North Shore lost by four points to Grovedale, St Joseph’s defeated St Albans by 98 points, and South Barwon won away against Geelong West.