League Match Report: Panthers storm home against Bulldogs
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League Match Report
South Adelaide vs Central District
Round 1 - Flinders University Stadium - 30/03/19
Goals: Cross 3, Schwarz, Whittlesea, Noble 2, Cailotto, Liddle, Davis, Brown, Fitt, Heaslip, Overall
Best: Cross, Brown, Liddle, Knoll, Whittlesea, Haren
A final term blitz and Joel Cross masterclass have gotten the Panthers off to a 59-point winning start to the 2019 SANFL Statewide Super League season.
South lead by just five points midway through the third term, but would kick nine of the games last 10 goals to register a comfortable 16.6 (102) to 6.7 (43) win at Flinders University Stadium.
Joel Cross was simply outstanding for the home side, gathering a game-high 37 disposals and 12 clearances, while adding three goals for good measure (two of those coming during that final term goal spree).
The Panthers co-captain marshalled a midfield that worked tirelessly all afternoon to provide their forwards greater opportunity to score, as South blasted the ball into attack 60 times to the Dogs 29.
Reigning best and fairest Nick Liddle (26 touches, five clearances and a goal) was his usual classy self, while the new man in the middle, ruckman Michael Knoll also put in an impressive debut performance with seven marks and 23 hit outs.
South were dealt a blow before a ball was even bounced, as gun recruit Malcolm Karpany withdrew from the side to be with his partner and newborn son, who arrived at 4:30am on Saturday morning. However, this opened the door for Panthers junior product Darnell Tucker (Happy Valley - SFL) to make his League debut.
Despite this, the Panthers still opened the game the more lively of the two sides.
Sam Overall opened the scoring in his 50th League game after taking a strong contested mark 40m out from goal.
South had another shortly after through another accurate set shot. This time through Tom Whittlesea, who put in a strong all around performance, working hard up the ground for his 19 touches and slotting two goals for the afternoon.
Centrals replied through Murray Stephenson, but after arguably the goal of the day from Cross, who shook a tackle and curled home a checkside snap from the playground pocket, and Nic Schwarz first goal in his comeback game South took a three goal margin into the first change.
The second term was a dour affair, with Liam Fitt providing the only major score in a short quarter. As the teams headed to the sheds the Panthers held onto a 23-point buffer.
Credit to Roy Laird's men, Central District lifted their work rate in the third and were the better side for the quarter.
The Dogs kicked four of the first five goals and once big Fraser Fort sent one through the sticks at the Northern end South's lead had been cut to just five points.
However, the home side hardened their resolve and wrestled their way back on top late in the term.
A clever tap on from Overall released Abe Davis into an open goal square before Whittlesea restored a three goal buffer with his second of the match.
The work of Ben Haren around the ground should also not go unmentioned. The former Magpie showcased his versatility throughout the game playing across all three lines and working hard to cover the expanses at Noarlunga.
The game truly opened up for South in the final term.
Tyson Brown put some icing on an impressive defensive performance against the dangerous Troy Menzel by kicking the first goal of the fourth quarter.
Cross and Mark Noble added two a piece, which could have been three to the skipper if not for a generous handball over the top to the hard running Noble.
Although the highlight of the goal spree came through Alex Cailotto, who playing forward turned his opponent inside out and showed some toe beyond his usual sturdy presence in defence to run into an open goal.
A second to Schwarz and Ben Heaslip's first capped off a remarkable strong finish from South and provided enough of a percentage boost to see the Panthers sitting top of the ladder come the close of the round.
South now make the never easy trip to Alberton to face Port Adelaide this Saturday, April 6 from 2:10pm.