Panthers make statement against undefeated Chelsea

Winners are grinners! 409019 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS.

By Jonty Ralphsmith

It started as a litmus test and finished as a thumping.

Facing an undefeated Chelsea outfit, Devon Meadows confirmed its status as premiership heavyweights with a 15.10 100 to 6.11 47 win.

An eight goal to two first half set the scene as the visitors were daunted by the Panthers’ heat.

Devon Meadows capitalised on its monopoly of territory early, snagging four goals in the first 10 minutes to make an early statement.

Returning hard nut Ty Kirkwood kicked the first when he grabbed it out of the ruck and dobbed it, with Alex Canal and Patrick Harmes also getting on the board early.

That trio all played crucial roles inside 50.

Kirkwood’s return gave Devon Meadows the secondary target inside 50 that has been missing since the injury-forced absence of Patrick Ryder.

Harmes has grown in confidence each week since he has been the go-to man in attack, finishing with three goals on Saturday and making plenty of contests.

“Paddy (Harmes) has been great for us – not having Paddy Ryder, we need someone to stand up in the forward line and it was good to have Ty Kirkwood back for his first game in a few weeks,” said coach Ryan Hendy.

“It balanced us going forward with two blokes presenting at the footy.

“Ty gives us effort and that’s what we’ve been lacking without Paddy.”

Canal was among a host of Devon smalls – including Jack Wilson who played a season-best game and Bailey Phillips who kicked three – whose run and energy supported Devon’s forward setup.

Those four goals were set up by Devon Meadows controlling the terms of the game with their hunger to win the contested footy and play a high-octane game from the centre.

When Chelsea looked to exit the backline, the flood of numbers who swarmed the ball carrier and wall of backmen setup behind the footy amplified Devon’s momentum.

Riley Simmons continued his strong form in the ruck which assisted the Panthers’ supremacy at stoppage.

That was notable at the start of every quarter.

Devon Meadows won all four first centre clearances – three through Brendan Hermann – to stave off any potential momentum swing.

Led by stars Nick Battle and Hermann, the hosts got first hands to it more than their opponents but were accountable when Chelsea got the footy.

“Every time they got the footy, we put a focus on relentless pressure and that gave us a leg up,” Hendy said.

“We had plans in place and to execute the way we did with our tackling pressure and hunger to win the footy was the thing that got us going the most.”

Nick Battle and Brendan Hermann brought aggression at ground level as moments of pressure and toughness were interspersed throughout the contest.

Nathan Drew repeatedly forced his opponent under the footy and intercepted; Riley McDonald embraced the physical contact; and Wilson’s composure was crucial as Devon looked to launch forward.

The win was also critical given Chelsea’s kinder draw this season; Devon Meadows will need to have a strong record against the best teams in the competition to top the ladder as Chelsea doesn’t double up against as many top sides.

“I think that will give us a lot of belief – missing Paddy and Dean Kent – it wasn’t just a good win; it was a real convincing win and we did it for four quarters,” the coach said.

“They tried to throw a little bit at us in the third quarter but to our credit we stood up to it.

“We knew we were coming up against an undefeated side and we were really keen for the challenge – last time we played a top side, we were disappointed losing by a point to Edi-Asp – and we wanted to get a good scalp.

“The boys were right on from the start today, their preparation was great and their want to win the footy was right up and the pressure we brought was relentless and that put us in good stead.

“We were probably waiting for this game for a few weeks.

“In the last couple of weeks we were good without being the side we wanted to be.

“I think that came down to the boys looking forward to this week and they were on from the start.”

On Saturday, Devon Meadows will face Hastings, which it beat by 204 points earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, Pearcedale was upset by Crib Point, which blew them away in a 10-goal second half to run away 19.10 124 to 13.9 87 victors.

The Dales will be looking to bounce back against Bonbeach.