A devastating five-minute burst at the start of the match has cost Western Australia their defence of the Haydn Bunton Cup for contests against South Australia.
The Black Swans fought bravely to forge a six-point lead late in the match before succumbing to SA’s greater midfield options to lose by 14 points, 15.11 (101) to 13.9 (87) at Gliderol Stadium.
It means the record between the two States is squared at 46 wins apiece and follows WA’s nail-biting one-point win in the last encounter between the teams.
Tireless ruckman Paul Johnson won the Simpson Medal as WA’s best player in a tight finish from sweeping half-back Kyle Hams, who did no harm to his chances of a mature-age call-up to the AFL.
The tone of the game was set in the opening moments when SA spearhead Adam Grocke claimed three early marks and had 2.1 on the board before WA went forward of centre.
The big forward dominated the first half and gave Dan Hunt a State debut to forget by kicking six goals before the long break.
But he only added one more as the spirited West Australians closed down his supply to overcome a 28-point deficit.
SA ball-winners James Boyd, Nick Liddle and Chris Schmidt appeared unstoppable in the first half as they played the tiny Glenelg ground to perfection.
The Black Swans were unable to employ their preferred running game and it was noticeable that they weren’t able to switch play at half-back – a feature of the best WAFL teams – until the third quarter.
But WA were well served by Johnson who found a willing clearance ally in Luke Blackwell while Craig Wulff worked his way into the game.
The intensity of the game lifted markedly to start the last quarter and Wulff soon gave his team the scent of victory with a superb running goal to secure WA’s first lead of the game,
Playing in front of a sizeable contingent of recruiters from all 18 AFL clubs, Hams impressed with his dashing runs from defence and tough work in the clinches.
He finished with 31 disposals while Johnson, who had 20 possessions to go with 31 hit outs, was the only WA player to exceed his impact.
Claremont veteran Trinity Handley had a memorable debut with goals in each quarter while his Tigers team-mates Ian Richardson and Paul Medhurst showed their class with three goals apiece.
|GOALS - SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Grocke 7; Kirkby 2; Clayton, Schiller, Gray, Liddle, Schmidt, Jericho. WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Handley 4; Richardson, Medhurst 3; Smith 2, Wulff.|
BEST - SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Grocke, Liddle, Schmidt, Boyd, Thomas, Parry, Batsanis. WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Johnson, Hams, Blackwell, Riggio, Wulff, Richardson, Medhust.
UMPIRES: S McPhee, M Avon, L Haussen.
CROWD: 2843 at Gliderol Stadium, Glenelg.