Manchester United v Liverpool, Wallabies v All Blacks, Yankees v Red Sox, NSW Blues v Queensland Maroons; all renowned classic rivalries, and Wandsworth Demons v West London Wildcats is right up there with them.
Both teams knew coming into Round 6 of AFL London, though, that past games and ladder position ultimately meant little in a match that would be the toughest of the season.
Once again, the Demons would be without last year’s Best & Fairest winner Trent Georgiou, still recovering from a knee injury, while the Wildcats welcomed some new EU players to the squad.
The first quarter saw early domination by the Demons’ midfielders, getting on top of the experienced Wildcats and lack of height in the ruck. The big body of Adam Jeffries was able to win plenty of the hard ball and moved it quickly into the attacking 50, leading to the Demons kicking four fast goals. But, the trademark of the Wildcats prevailed as they battled well to reply with back to back goals, rewarding some quality ball use from down back, led by the ever solid Lloyd Williams.
A solitary behind for each team in the final five minutes of the first saw the Demons go into the first break with a 10 point lead: 4.2 (26) to 2.4 (16).
Physical, hard hitting and intense; the theme of the second quarter. Both teams’ back lines dominated with Lloyd Shepherd and Max Renfrey both menaces to the Demons’ forwards, whilst James McLeay held firm against a formidable Wildcats attack.
It wasn’t until the 12th minute of the quarter that either team slotted home a goal. Both teams were wasteful with their entries into the forward line, with neither side asserting their dominance, in a quarter that was as tough as any seen in the AFL London competition in years.
The premiership quarter definitely lived up to its name with plenty of memorable plays by both teams. Momentum swung heavily in favour of the Demons early in the quarter as they registered two goals to extend their lead beyond 20 points by half way through, leaving the Wildcats struggling to find an answer. But in typical Wildcats fashion, pure grit and determination kicked in and they rallied, with Cody Gunn slamming on consecutive goals to keep them in the game.
Ill-discipline awarded the Wildcats back-to-back 50m penalties, giving ruckman Pat Connell a free kick 15m out, directly in front. A five-goal-to-three quarter in the Wildcats’ favour put them ahead by two going into the final change.
Nothing could separate the two teams early in the final term. Big one-on-one battles were being fought all over the field, duals waged at every contest: dangerous midfielder Josh Beattie versus the rotating tagging Wildcats combination of Robbie Gore and Nick Thompson, ruckman Pat Connell versus Englishmen Alex Watson, Lloyd Shepherd versus Geoffrey Rouse.
The Wildcats played possession footy, showing their ability to take control of the game with precision and skill. It did not reflect on the scoreboard though, as they registered a solitary behind. Contrary to the Wildcats, the Demons chose fast flowing footy down the wing, utilising run to move the ball. But, like the Wildcats, the Demons failed to convert on the scoreboard, only being able to reply with a solitary behind.
Extracting the ball from their defensive 50 became difficult for the Wildcats, with many of the Demons’ players dominating the aerial contests and forcing multiple stoppages. Players from both teams started to feel the physicality of the game, battered bodies becoming common after each contest.
With only a few points separating the teams, a dubious umpiring decision to the Demon’s was given, putting the Demons ahead by 3 points half way through the final term.
Behinds were traded in the ensuing minutes before Cody Gunn ran deep into the Wildcats’ forward pocket, breaking away from his defender. Gunn’s dribbling left foot attempt at goal rolled towards the Demons fullback, only before an unlucky bounce gifted the ball into the waiting Duryea on the goal line. Slotting the goal, Duryea put the Wildcats ahead by 1 point with 20 seconds remaining.
With just enough time for one last play, the Demons once again cleared the ball forward. But the resilient Wildcats backline held firm, holding off the attack to continue their perfect 2015 winning streak and leave the Demons with nothing to relish except the opportunity for another crack at their closest rivals when they meet again in July.
WEST LONDON WILDCATS: 10.13 (75)
WANDSWORTH DEMONS: 10.12 (74)
WEST LONDON WILDCATS – GOAL SCORERS: Gunn 3, Duryea 3, Hamilton 2, Connell, Risol
WANDSWORTH DEMONS – GOAL SCORERS: Rouse 3, Smith 2, Cooney, Beattie, Rischbieth
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Lloyd Williams (West London Wildcats)
AFL London is always welcoming new players and supporters. To find your nearest AFL London club, go to afllondon.com/clubs