NYORA didn’t let the atrocious conditions and a determined opposition steal a much-deserved premiership as the Saints hung on for a four-point grand final win against Longwarry on Saturday.
The Saints were clearly the top team for the season, but on days like Saturday at Warragul, anything could have, and almost happened.
Longwarry was probably the better team for large chunks of the game. In fact, the Saints were goalless for three of the four quarters.
Only a purple patch in the third term when Nyora kicked all of their goals saved the day.
The Crows moved the ball better and were prepared to switch the play into space from the outset, while the Saints were stuck in the packs.
Longwarry’s Harley Jones had three opportunities to kick the first goal, but only two points resulted. The cross breeze and the slippery pill didn’t help.
Jesse Heylen had Nyora’s best chance to score in the first term but his flying shot went out on the full.
Dylan Heylen was lively around the packs but the Saints had no space to run free.
The first quarter only lasted 21 minutes with neither side registering a goal.
Quarter time hail meant things weren’t going to get easier as the lights came on.
Coach Fia Tootoo led a more physically aggressive approach from the Saints in the second term.
But still the Saints couldn’t penetrate. A Longwarry goal to coach Daniel Fry snuck under several sets of legs.
Nyora’s gun forwards Ilan Osman and Ben Schultz both had half chances to respond but the Saints remained without a goal after another short term.
The Saints looked much better from the start of the second half.
Rhys Bancroft and Ryan Spooner began to get on top with long clearances out of the middle.
They lost a man when Anthony Marsden did his shoulder but Nyora pressed on.
Tootoo in defence made a timely goal saving lunge, and not long after, a chain of handballs ended with Osman who opened Nyora’s account.
The Saints were pumped. Ben Schultz grabbed the ball from a throw in and his snap sailed through to put the Saints in front for the first time at the 12-minute mark of the third quarter.
Osman then had a set shot from the boundary. His celebration started as soon as it left his boot.
The Saints looked home as Longwarry supporters were calling for their coach, Fry, the league’s leading goalkicker who’d spent much of the quarter on the bench, to bring himself back on.
Hail returned at three quarter time and Nyora were happy to trap the wet ball in their forward half for the first 10 minutes of the final term.
But the Crows didn’t give in. Russell Lehman found some space and kicked a nice running goal to bring the Crows to within five points 12 minutes in.
Dylan Heylen hit Osman with a perfect pass 40 metres out, but the wind pulled the sweetly hit shot up on the line.
The Crows ran the ball up the other end where Josh Bourke appeared to running into an open goal but a desparate Nyora tackle meant only a point resulted.
The last five minutes were played deep in Longwarry’s attack with at least 30 players around the ball. It was to be another short quarter and Nyora survived.
Saints earn flag the hard way