What a difference a week can make; from two opening round matches which were close to two blowouts last Saturday (one much worse than the other), we’ve seen a lot already two rounds into the season. It’s my job to break it all down, let me know on Twitter (@Chris_Guscott) if I’m doing it right.
- Adelaide University (2-0) (Last Week: 1)
Not too much more to say after their 54-0 win over the Oilers. I’ve seen over 60 matches of Gridiron SA play in my short time as the reporter, and I’ve never seen a match as effortlessly one-sided as this one. Maybe because Gridiron SA over the last few seasons has provided more parity then most leagues in the country, but that’s beside the point.
They had 41 points at halftime after scoring on every offensive possession and the defence allowed 1-2 first downs; it was a beatdown that mercifully ended at the start of the fourth quarter. So what can you take away from such a big win over a lesser opponent?
Josh Welbourn is going to have another easy season under centre, and everyone on the offence made him look like a superstar. Whilst he made some impressive deep-target throws, most of the offence was on simple short routes which were on target because his quick drops and stellar offensive line saw him unpressured. It also helps when Nick Ward can take a screen pass 75 yards without barely breaking a sweat.
This defence did what it needed to do and understandably will miss out on credit. They halted Tedmanson and the rushing attack, plus their defensive line pressured the dropbacks and made life easy for the secondary. Whilst it wasn’t a surprise, AU’s defence rebounded well after a slow first half last week.
- UniSA Eagles (1-1) (Last Week: 3)
The first half of UniSA’s win in the inaugural Dawn Mayman Perpetual Trophy was exactly what I expected to see from the Eagles this season.
Regular readers of the Power Chart know that I usually look at offence first, but this defence made too much noise to be ignored. Boasting an array of talented ball-carriers, South City couldn’t break the shackles of a sturdy rush defence. Jesse Wyten and Timani Seve helped lead the charge of a unit which consistently made tackles for little gain and important tackles in open field, which forced the Chiefs to pass, and that’s where Nathan Halman comes in.
Last year I had little choice to be critical of Halman when he was under centre because of his important role leading a talented offence, despite being a backup. It brings me great joy to now be able to applaud him in his preferred role as a defensive end. A player I consider an All-Star lock in this form was absolutely everywhere, and along with ample talent joining him on the defensive line, they seemingly pressured Josh Francisco immediately for majority of the first half. Their secondary barely had to do anything.
This offence is a lot more balanced then I thought it would be with Lewis Wyten under centre and looking increasingly better. The rushing attack usually has a lot of success against the Chiefs, but Naulty, Volar and John Seve were terrific on Saturday behind another great performance from their offensive line. WR Thomas Seager (who’s been a rookie revelation) may get the statistics for his big receptions, but a workhorse performance from the rushing attack helped the chains move downfield consistently.
They now get the Oilers next week, who are limping to say the least. 54-0 is a stretch, but this offence will get a lot of chances to get close if their defence plays that way again.
- South City Chiefs (0-1) (Last Week: 2)
A tale of two halves means you can have two different perspectives. I’m usually an optimist regarding South City, but let’s start with what went wrong.
The offensive line got demolished in the first half, no other way to put it. For most of the second quarter, Josh Francisco would have been sacked/forced to scramble on almost every dropback, which is simply unacceptable despite the quality of the defensive line they faced. This highly potent spread offence backpedalled unlike I’ve seen in the short tenure of Heath Thomas, and there’s only so much Francisco could have done to avoid pass rushers coming from all directions. Saying that the offensive line needs to improve is an understatement.
Last year their inability to stop the run against the Eagles was a problem, and whilst they didn’t get brutally beaten down by Naulty this time round, it’s a problem again. Frequently the Chiefs missed important tackles, or worse still couldn’t bring the ball-carrier down, and it cost them as they managed to control the tempo when they needed to in the second half.
What might be the most confusing and disappointing aspect is how well they responded in the second half. Trailing 23-0, the offensive line looked like a new unit and gave Francisco time to function as a quarterback. Their offence begun to move forward, and the defence repeatedly came up with big stops when they needed them. It clearly shows that this side feeds off of momentum and confidence, which can’t be a good thing since they have a way to go if they’re going to compete with the Eagles and AU.
It would be remise of me to not point out the good things I saw. Andre Benjamin, if he gets the delivery, will dominate this league similarly to what Nick Ward has done so far with AU. Matt Francisco was a bonafide leader on defence and was fundamental to their improved defensive effort in the second half. Scott Butler joining Saxon Learey and Andre Hall in the backfield will create a pretty ominous running back stable.
They have a chance to get some confidence against the Spartans this week, but it’s far from a lock if they’re banking on a win. However, if the cogs do get moving, expect a big score.
- Southern District Oilers (0-1-1) (Last Week: 4)
A win may not have been in the question pre-game, but I for one certainly didn’t expect a 54-point loss from three quarters of play. This hurts more than just a damaging scoreline as well. The game was called off because the Oilers were simply running out of players thanks to injuries and ejections, and it’s confirmed that they’ve lost at least one player for a few weeks.
There’s little to add outside of what this game could do confidence-wise for this unit after their encouraging opening round draw. AU was a lightyear ahead in talent mind you, but judging by the type of ejections, Southern District’s trademark fighting spirit turned into the wrong type of fighting spirit. It’s yet to be seen whether this could have a positive effect on the remaining players, but since this team has little recent history of this behaviour, it shows how deeply this loss must have cut.
Things don’t get easier this week unfortunately. They get the Eagles rolling in off a very good win, and the Oilers defence will need their best performance to slow down UniSA’s offence. Tedmanson will also have his troubles under centre against a stout rushing attack. Hopefully Southern District can channel their competitive passion, but it could be another long Saturday.
- Port Adelaide Spartans (0-0-1) (Last Week: 5)
The bye came at a good time for the Spartans, who got an extra week to improve and further adjust their new-look squad. They also have an interesting challenge to gauge their progress on Saturday, with the Chiefs next up. Late last year the Spartans dismantled a sluggish South City, which gave me plenty of optimism, so anything’s possible.
Their defence needs to return to last year’s ways, as they face an offence which is still figuring things out. If they can force some turnovers and limit the big plays, they’re a chance. However, they’ll need Hassall and the offence to contribute. It’s far too early to bank on that happening, but they have the pieces there to do so.
Written by Chris Guscott – @Chris_Guscott
Originally published by www.ozsportsonline.com reproduced with authors permission