Tigers Hold Steadfast Against Determined Dragons;
Midfield Dominance Floors Reigning Asian Champs:
2 August 2008
Thailand’s own Australian Rules Football club, the Thailand Tigers hosted reigning Asian Champions the Hong Kong Dragons last weekend at the scenic Horseshoe Point in Pattaya.
The last time the Dragons came to Thailand, they were undefeated in their run through the 2007 Asia championships, eventually taking home the trophy after a thrilling extra-time final against the Bali Gecko’s. However this time a rejuvenated Tigers team took it up to the champs to come away with a hard fought win.
The Tigers started the better getting away to an early lead with goals to full forward Aaron Klutke and rover Damien Hoo. Although it was a tight and scrappy encounter early on, the Tigers were able to make the most of their opportunities, whereas the visitors were rushed in front of goal, and unable to convert.
New International Captain, Jarrad Rexilious, was leading the way in the midfield, with some explosive runs from the center of the ground and continually pumping the ball into the forward line. He was in good company with Nathan Kincaid also prominent in his first game for the Thailand team, showing plenty of aggression at the contests, and also pushing forward to provide another scoring option.
The Dragons rallied after quarter time, showing some of the qualities that make them such a force in Asian football. And though they won a lot more of the football around the ground and looked to be getting on top of the Tigers, the desperate efforts of the Tigers key defensive players in Chris Cleave and Michael Sammons were proving too hard to penetrate. Cleave was a tower of defense in the air, and also at ground level with his fierce tackling. What Sammons and Cleave didn’t mark or spoil seemed to be cleared by the Tigers fleet of nimble defenders in James Lie and Ryan Collett. The Tigers taking a 25-point lead into half time.
With the Hamilton Cup on the line, and looking for an improvement a month out from the 2008 Asian Football Championships in Singapore, the Hong Kong team threw everything into the second half and started to peg back the Tigers early lead. The Dragons were not having things their own way however, with goals still proving hard to come by for both teams as the pressure intensified. Keeping the Tigers in front was Damien Hoo whose continued hard running through the middle of the ground, and aggressive tackling eventually earning him a shot on goal that he duly converted for full points.
However the Dragons kicked 4 goals straight for the term to the Tigers 2 goals 2 behinds, reducing the Tigers lead to 14 points going into the three quarter time break.
This lead was quickly reduced to only 8 points when the Dragons booted the first goal of the final term and it was suddenly ‘game on’. However the Tigers had been resting several of their better players during the 3rd quarter, and with Rexilious, Hoo, and Kincaid back into the middle, and dominant ruckman Luke Rogowski drifting across the half back line, the Tigers grabbed control again. They pushed the ball forward where Klutke was able to gather a loose ball and kick his third goal for the day, a great effort on the run from 40 metres out, restoring a comfortable margin.
This proved too much for the Dragons, with the home side The Thailand Tigers running out victors by 13 points.
International coach David Paterson happy with the win leading into Septembers Asia Championships. “We were very happy to come away with a win against the benchmark in the competition, as we have continued to make significant inroads from where we were as a team this time last year. It reinforces that the challenge is definitely there for this group if they want to achieve the ultimate success in Singapore”.
Final scores: Thailand Tigers – 8 . 7 . 55 defeated the Hong Kong Dragons – 6 . 6 . 42
Best Players for Thailand: Chris Cleave, Damien Hoo, Jarrad Rexilious, Nathan Kincaid.
Goal Kickers: Klutke (3), Hoo (2), Kincaid, Sullivan, Rogowski.