THE BLITZ took North Ballarat Roosters completely by surprise.
Post-match, players were sent immediately into problem-solving mode, encouraged to assess how the opposition had been allowed to hit.
The Selkirk Roosters’ best football was fantastic, but the gap when they dropped off again proved far too great, with a third-straight loss in the Victorian Football League.
This time, Sandringham seized its chances against the Roosters with a 35-point win at Eureka Stadium on Saturday.
The Zebras hit hardest in the second quarter, piling on three goals in the first four-and-a-half minutes and slamming on eight goals to the Roosters’ one major.
It followed a close opening term in which the Roosters had the edge in possession, effectiveness and intensity.
Reports from the Sandringham huddle were that Zebras coach Simon McPhee called for more attack on the ball and greater effectiveness from his players – nothing out of the ordinary.
Roosters’ coach Gerard FitzGerald was caught off guard by what came next.
The Roosters fell apart.
“There were no obvious signs, nothing you could detect in the body language or the way we had been performing,” FitzGerald said.
“I’m not quite sure where those quarters come from, whether it’s a maturation thing for our young group.
“We need to work it out and we need to work it out quickly so we can work through those quarters.”
Uncannily, there was barely a breeze at Eureka Stadium.
There were no key Zebras suddenly dominating up forward – all shared in the onslaught. The Roosters’ team defensive methods just did not kick in. Sandringham dominated the contested possession.
The Roosters’ fighting spirit was reignited for a strong third quarter, slicing a 40-point deficit back to 19 by the final break.
There is still work for the Roosters to do up forward; they kicked 4.6 in the third quarter comeback.
Tellingly, Sandringham booted seven straight goals in the final quarter.
FitzGerald said that when a team was trailing by as much as his Roosters, there was no room for error.
Play was highly skilled and evenly matched (second quarter excepted).
Onballer Nick Rippon notched up 25 disposals, 19 by foot, with 100 per cent effectiveness, kicked three goals and earned five free kicks in his favour.
Nathan Horbury (23 disposals, nine marks, three goals, five tackles) and Nick Peters (20 disposals, four clearances, two goals) were standouts.
Ruckman Eric Wallace formed a good duel with the St Kilda-listed Billy Longer in the tap.
Wallace, who made another three monster tackles, also bobbed up as a strong mark in defence when the Roosters were under siege.
For Sandringham, Maverick Weller dominated with 31 disposals and booting 3.2. St Kilda-listed midfielder Shane Savage, while not named in the Zebras’ best, was also hard to contain, with 29 touches and seven clearances.
Saint Sam Fisher made a solid, long-awaited return from a back injury, standing on Roosters’ captain Michael Searl.