TFSA League is heating up, with only three minor rounds remaining and a different permit tops each division.
Last Friday night started with the Northern Vipers making short work of the South West Wolves Men’s outfit. Ten Vipers players found their way onto the score sheet, Henry Fairfield leading the way with five tries, the Vipers winning 19-0.
In the other match the Eastern Stingrays had to work hard to fight off a tenacious Central Scorpions.
The Scorpions fought hard and were in the contest for most of the first half with Adam Whitehead leading the way. However, with Tim Glazebrook in top form with five tries, the Stingrays perfect record was never threatened, and it will take a huge form reversal in the last three games for them to not have a direct route into the Grand Final.
In the most open game of the Women’s season so far, the Scorpions became the first team to reach double figures as they beat the Stingrays 10-4. Georgia Donnelly was a dominant figure for the Scorpions leading her team to a 4-2 half-time lead. The Scorpions broke the game open in the second half for a comfortable win. For the Stingrays Courtney Marks continues to display that she is comfortable at this level with three tries.
The Vipers started strong against the Wolves, dominating through the middle of the field, taking a small advantage into the break. Led by Alice Gregory the Wolves wrestled back control in the second half, displaying why they are considered one of the favourites for this seasons title piling on five second half tries to none to win 9-5.
In the Mixed Division, the Stingrays tried hard but eventually went down to the Scorpions 7-4. Confidence in an upset peaked in the Stingrays camp when they survived a barrage of Scorpion field dominance, including a full field chase down by Rick Wilkinson, to keep the scores at 0-0 after seven minutes. Toby Gabrisch was again dominant for the Scorpions with two tries, but when Tim Phillips went over and Eliza Geh hit a strong link hole for another try, the Scorpions lead by only one at half-time. Familiar defence errors and an inability to convert in line attack eventually hurt the Stingrays, the Scorpions win allowing to remain in touching distance of the league leading Wolves.
The Wolves stayed a win clear atop the table with a comfortable 11-3 win over the Northern Vipers. The Wolves did not produce their cleanest display, but with Ruth Shaw leading the way with five tries from the wing, the Wolves were never threatened.
This Sunday sees the second the carnival double header at Waite Oval and with three rounds remaining and we can look forward to see who will be contesting the finals.
In the Men’s Division the Eastern Stingrays need only one draw from their remaining three matches to wrap up the minor premiership and have direct entry to the Grand Final. With Wolves struggling, this leaves the Vipers and the Scorpions to battle out for the other spot in the decider. The head to head battle is one-all so far this season, making their match in the second timeslot on Sunday a vital encounter. Line defence dominated the last time they played, with only one try in the first half so the ability of either team’s playmakers to create scoring opportunities will be the deciding factor. Over the course of the first six rounds the Scorpions look the slightly better unit and would be expected to win and wrap up second position.
The Wolves wealth of experience has seen them dominate throughout the Mixed season. Almost half the Wolves squad have played at Open or Senior National Touch League level and there is no weak spot across the field. With play maker Darren Williams controlling the attack, the Wolves have shown the poise to make the most of their territorial dominance breaching the 10 try mark three times this year. The only team that has shown the ability to match the Wolves is the Scorpions. While not as polished as the Wolves, Toby Gabrisch leads a side full of raw speed that showed an ability to break the Wolves defence in an 8-8 draw earlier in the year. The Eastern Stingrays have been the big improvers this year, their victory over the Northern Vipers being their first in three seasons. The addition of Rick Wilkinson and Tim Phillips has added potency to the attack, but the team relies too much on these two players to be a genuine force. With a core group of players still new to this level, the Stingrays lack of depth makes it hard to see them being able to match it with the top two teams. The Northern Vipers will have to see a form reversal if they have any chance of jumping either the Stingrays or the Scorpions in to second place. After a draw with the Stingrays in round one, they have been dominated in every outing and look off the pace this season.
The Wolves and the Scorpions have been impossible to separate at the top of the Women’s table. Each permit has four wins and draws in each of their head-to-head battles, which makes their game at 11:35 am on Sunday a battle for direct entry into the grand-final. With no clear favourite, The Wolves might just be able to get the job done and earn the game off in Grand Final week. The battle for the other semi-final spot is just as wide open. The Vipers had their best performance of the season in round five to beat the Stingrays, and should have just enough class to win again on Sunday and put them in the box seat for the last finals position.