North Whyalla’s unbeaten run continued after a hard-fought 14-point victory over a determined South Whyalla on Sunday. In close to near-perfect conditions, the Demons known slow starters looked like they had addressed their early game problems with a dominant first term. New arrival Sam Venning was giving his midfield first use of the ball, something Henry Shea, Dave Cleary and co were relishing.
Two goals to Shea and a one to Freak Phillips gave the Demons an unexpected 21-point lead at the first break. The Magpies known for their contested football were being outplayed in close and were struggling to handle the pressure being applied by the ferocious Dees. Slowly but surely the Pies upped the ante and were rewarded with back to back goals to Daniel Collison reducing the lead to single figures. The Demons were now on the back foot but to the pleasure of their faithful they hit back with goals to Phillips and the mercurial Peter McIntosh enabling them to hold a 13-point lead at the main break
The Pies needed a spark, Jai Harvey moved into the ruck, regular forward Anthony Malcolm started in the centre square and this seemed to have an instant effect. Successive clearances by Malcolm resulted in back to back goals to Josh Ackland and Rian Smoker and all of a sudden it was a one-point ball game. A big shift in contested footy the Magpies way was the catalyst behind their revival, James Gruitt lifted along with Josh Trezise and now the game was being played on their terms. The Demons were now under the pump and looked to be just hanging in but to their credit they were able to find a way to stem the Magpies flow with two of the last three goals of the quarter to restore a seven-point lead at the last change.
With the game in the balance Magpie centreman James Gruitt took the game by the scruff of the neck, he won successive centre clearances resulting in two goals to himself, breaking the Demons back in the process. The Magpies were never headed after that with the Demons failing in front of goal missing several gettable chances to go down by 14 points. Best for the Pies and best afield was James Gruitt, with the game there to be won it was Gruitt who rose to the fore, his ability to win the ball in close being a standout, Jai Harvey was solid in defence before being moved into the ruck with instant success, David Clothier mopped up in defence on numerous occasions as did fellow close checking defender Tim Brown and Josh Ackland was there abouts most of the day.
For the Demons Adiey Lawson was lively on his wing with his foot skills being of the highest level, Chad Smith’s run an carry was threatening, Nathan Van Eekeren was ever dangerous inside the forward fifty, Sam Venning’s first half provided plenty of gut busting runs and the old warrior Freak Phillips gave his all as usual.