A 20-minute lapse either side of half time saw the NFL fall to a 30-point defeat to the MPNFL in the WorkSafe AFL Victoria Community Championships.
Seven unanswered goals during this period was the cornerstone of the MPNFL’s 18.14 (122) to 14.8 (92) win at RJ Rowley Reserve.
The NFL held an eight-point lead at the 24-minute mark of the second term.
However, five unanswered goals late in second quarter gave the hosts a 22-point advantage at half time, before adding the first two goals in the third term.
Trailing by 34 points, the NFL refused to wither and put through four unanswered goals to trim the margin to nine points early in the last quarter, following a running goal to Justin White.
However that was as close as the visitors could get, as the MPNFL steadied with five of the last seven goals.
Despite the defeat, NFL coach Robert Hyde said he was proud of his side’s resilience throughout the day.
“There were times that we could have been blown away but the last quarter was terrific and their effort to fight it out was terrific so I was quite pleased with them from that point of view,” Hyde said.
“The blokes that played, I’ve got no grumbles. They committed with their all and I was really pleased about that. We were probably just undermanned in a few areas in the end.
“I’m disappointed and the blokes are disappointed. Across the board I think they were a little bit more polished and stronger in their forward line, which I knew was going to be a worry and might be too powerful.
“They spread a bit harder too. Marks inside 50 they had 19 and we had seven.”
Cameron Elmore claimed the medal as the NFL’s best in defeat. The Lower Plenty defender played above his size on a powerful MPNFL forward line and was sure overhead with many intercept marks.
Ben Fennell, Luke Lirosi, Justin White and Dan McLinden were also among the league’s best in defeat.
Injuries to Kane Shaw, Hamish Paynter and Liam Brandt limited the NFL’s rotations in the second half.
Hyde conceded the NFL was undersized against a strong MPNFL outfit.
“Even with their powerful forwards our back six stood up pretty well, but we just needed some more firepower in our forward 50 and probably lacked a second ruckman,” he said.
“We threw Shawry in there and he got hurt so we needed that extra 200cm bloke to float around and maybe one more key forward to take the pressure off Fitzgerald and Fairchild.”
After an intense and highly-contested start, Wayne Schultz kicked the opening goal midway through the first term when he intercepted an errant kick across defence.
Patrick Fitzgerald and Luke Lirosi then converted after a goal to MPNFL’s Anthony Bruhn to give the NFL an 11-point lead at the first change.
Another goal to Ben Fennell early in the second term extended the NFL’s lead to 15 points, before the MPNFL’s big forwards worked their way into the contest.
Goals to Tim Bongetti, Justin Van Unen and Dale Sutton gave the MPNFL the lead, however the NFL rallied.
Successive majors Rhett Jordon and Fennell handed the ascendancy back to the NFL, before the MPNFL made their move late in the second term – booting five successive goals in eight minutes to take a stranglehold on the game.
With the game looking out of reach midway through the third term, the NFL rallied on the back of hard work by White and Fennell.
However, the MPNFL managed to find a response to each challenge in the last quarter to take the 30-point win.
The NFL has slipped to number five in the AFL Victoria rankings and will next year take on the Western Region Football League.
Final score: MPNFL 18.14 (122) def NFL 14.8 (92)
NFL Goal Kickers: P. Fitzgerald 3, B. Fennell 2, A. Fairchild 2, J. Donaldson 2, W. Schultz 2, J. White, R. Jordon, L. Lirosi
NFL Best Players: C. Elmore, J. White, D. McLinden, L. Lirosi, B. Fennell, J. Hodgkin