The Central Scorpions have proven themselves as the best permit in South Australian touch football taking out the 2021 Mitchell Cup last Sunday. 

In an exciting finals day at Campbelltown Oval, the dominant Scorps won both the Women’s and Mixed Grand Finals on their way to being declared the best permit for the season.

The biggest surprise came in the last match of the day with the Northern Vipers defeating the heavily backed Eastern Stingrays.

The Vipers work ethic and team spirit came to the fore as they lead all the way to overcome the Stingrays in each region’s only Grand Final for the day.

The day started with a premiership for the Scorpions Mixed who concluded an excellent second half of the season with a clinical performance to defeat the South West Wolves. The Scorpions had shown their supremacy over the Wolves in their previous meeting and were on top from the start of Sunday’s game, making the most of their dominance of field position and elite fitness to complete an easy 8-4 win. The win was a testament to the superior structure of the Scorpions, their strong adherence to the fundamentals, such as rucking, allowing them to hit the score line consistently.

Backing up from a tough semi-final 36 hours earlier, the Scorpions displayed few signs of fatigue, making the most of an early penalty on the line, a long ball out to the wing allowing Claire Harton to score the first try of the game.

The Wolves hit back in the very next set, Justin Neave showing an unexpected freshness to pounce on a long ball from Jordan Lewis to score out wide.

The shootout start continued when poor defensive communications from the Wolves allowed the Scorpions to again take the lead.

The Scorps dominated field position, but it was the Wolves who scored next as Nathan Elliott danced through three defenders to score an easy touchdown. 

The touch adage is that a score only counts if it is defended, and the Wolves were disappointed that they allowed Toby Gabrisch to break through from a half run, a well-directed long ball allowing Harton to go over for her second and when Gabrisch broke through again the margin was two at half-time.

© Toby Gabrisch gets through from half

The Wolves seemed rejuvenated early in the second period, stretching the Scorpions defence on a number of occasions and when Elliott scored his second at five-minute mark, they were back in the game, coming just a minute before the moment that decided the contest.

The Wolves thought they had equalised when Elliott found a gap and handed off for Djarwan Williams to run more than half the field, just evading two desperate Scorps to reach the line. The celebrations were short lived with the play brought back to the middle of the field. A clear ‘no touch’ had led to a voluntarily roll ball earlier in the touch count, excellent referee communication allowing the correct decision to be made. The Scorpions made the most the reprieve, Harton scoring her third from the changeover. The two try turnaround seemed to shatter the last of the Wolves resolve, and when the Scorpions scored again just minutes later the margin was three with just eight minutes remaining as they finalised a convincing victory.

In the Women’s the Scorpions team came from behind twice in a cracking Grand Final, the Wolves again being on the receiving end, this time 6-5.

Kate Donnelly was outstanding for the winners, overcoming a hamstring injury to be influential in the final minutes to set up victory for the Scorpions. 

It was the Wolves who came out firing early, Mim Potter hitting an excellent link hole score in the first set of the match. The Scorpions hit back with a string of passes allowing a score out wide just a few minutes later, but by the 13-minute mark the Wolves had scored twice more to lead 3-1. With Steph O’Hara and Kate Donnelly stepping up, the Scorps dominated field position but it took a further five minutes before they turned that change in momentum into a score, two in two minutes seeing the game enter the break all square.

When Scorps made it three in a row in the first set of the second half, they were suddenly ahead by one. 

Two desperate try saving dives kept the Wolves in the contest and they used this as motivation, evening the game again by the 5th minute mark.

When Lacey Arbon caught a long ball and scored after the Scorpions had a player sent to the side line for the three score line penalties, she was surrounded by her rapturous teammates, the Wolves sensing victory with a one try lead and all the momentum.

© Mim Potter dives at the line

The Scorpions responded by throwing everything at the Wolves in the final few minutes. It was Donnelly who changed the game, firstly with a well-timed half run that led to an easy score.  

The winning moment can just a few minutes later and less than 120 seconds before the final siren. Driving off their defensive line, a poor roll ball, both off the mark and not rolled correctly, from the Wolves turned the ball over. With the Wolves players still interchanging as part of their sub box set, Donnelly took a quick tap cruising over for what became the winning score.

© Steph O'Hara drives

The win completed an undefeated season for the Scorpions, but the result would also be encouraging for the Wolves, proving through the season they team could match it with anyone in the competition.

It was an opportunity time for teams other than the Scorpions and Wolves in the final match of the day. A month ago the Stingrays would have been considered almost unbeatable, but ravaged by injuries and facing a united Vipers unit, the team that won the first six games of the season straight were dominated in every aspect of the game.

The Vipers were on top of the contest from the start scoring in the first three minutes. The Stingrays though hit back, Michael Morrow making something from a static final touch, creating an overlap which allowed Dash Emerson to score on the wing.

With the match turning into an arm wrestle, the referees did an excellent job in controlling the rising tensions, Morrow on the receiving end of an enforced substitution as the referees worked at keeping the hard touches out of the contest.

The Vipers reacted better to the intensity of the contest, scoring twice to lead 3-1 by the 12-minute mark. Where the Vipers were clean with the ball and creating chances, the Stingrays were just the opposite, their struggles epitomised by poor rucking and basic skill errors. It took a solo effort from Tim Glazebrook, again from a static roll ball on touch five, for the Stingrays to remain in the contest down by two at half-time.

The Vipers dominance continued into the second half and when Josh Dobie displayed how important a player he has come for the team over the previous two seasons, stepping his middle and diving for an impressive score, the Vipers were four ahead.

Only now they were four behind did the Stingrays seem to come alive and match the intensity of their opponents. Nick Litchfield fought through what was obviously considerable pain from a foot injury to lead a strong rucking set, creating a score and shortly after Glazebrook went over again, but despite the lead being reduced to two the Vipers always looked like taking out another Men’s premiership.

© Josh Dobie runs through

The day finished with the presentation ceremony. As well as the earned celebrations of the champion teams, the seasons Most Valuable Player awards were also presented. In the Mixed competition Darren Williams was the best male and Cassie Ormsby the best female, the Women’s award taken out by Alice Gregory who had a stand out season for the Wolves and the Men’s award was shared by two players who have dominated South Australian touch for many seasons, Nick Litchfield and Henry Fairfield.  

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