Zebras feeling Blue after a narrow defeat at IKON Park
After battling hard to lead at every break, we were unable to hold on - falling by three points as the siren sounded in Carlton.
Photography: Mark Woods
Despite not taking home the four points home from IKON Park on Sunday, the Zebras put up a near-complete performance against the Blues, providing strong contests across every facet.
Sam Latreille had a successful debut, providing our first goal of the game, whilst Saints-listed Isaac Keeler also imposed himself in his first game for the Zebs with a goal of his own in the second quarter.
Jack Bytel and Jack Billings re-invigorated the side upon their return - Bytel finishing with 39 disposals, 9 clearances and 4 tackles whilst Billings slotted 3 goals to accompany 22 disposals and 3 tackles.
Noah Gown continued to show his prowess with two more majors, whilst Tom Campbell and Max Heath combined to dominate the ruck with 45 hitouts.
After spending the opening five minutes building up the play across half back, we were able to control the game on our terms. Debutant Latreille was able to get on the back of Fin Bayne's launch inside fifty, running into the goal square to snag his first major for the Zebras.
Leo Connolly and Jack Peris led the way with their composure under pressure leading to multiple forward fifty entries. This eventually provided the chance for to Billings register his first goal of the day from a set shot after bringing in a solid contested mark.
Shortly after, Tom Campbell found himself on the receiving end of a clean chain of play coming off half back to put himself on the scoreboard and extend the Zebras' lead. James Van Es, Sam Latrielle and Jacob Lohmann combined with class to create Campbell's opportunity.
Twenty-five minutes into the quarter, Peris was able to crumb a Billings inside fifty to slot a brilliant check side goal on the run - providing some much-welcomed breathing room heading into the second term.
Noah Gown had the opportunity to further extend the lead heading into the break following a forward-fifty free kick, but registered a minor score to leave us up by four points.
Billings and Peris finished the quarter with eight and nine disposals respectively, as well as one goal each.
Head Coach Jake Batchelor called for a lift in defensive intensity heading into the second quarter, which is exactly what he received as Van Es' tackle pressure prevented a Blues major score in the fourth minute. Vincent Zagari also provided the heat and Campbell remained a strong anchor down back whilst Gown and Latreille piled on the pressure in our forward fifty.
Bayne also impressed with his defensive efforts, running back to touch the ball on the line - saving a certain goal.
Replying instantly to the Blues' major, Heath kickstarted a chain of play from the centre bounce. Heath's inside fifty eventuated in a classy snap from Isaac Keeler - his first major score for the Zebras.
Despite trailing in the inside fifty count, we were able to follow Batch's quarter time direction - holding up the dam wall to prevent major scoreboard impact.
As a result, Billings' composed finish from a fifty-metre penalty in the twenty-sixth minute gave us a one-goal lead heading into the main break.
An inside fifty within the first minute was a great sign for the Zebras as we attempted to get the game back on our terms.
It was in the eighth minute that this effort was rewarded, with Lohmann's launch into goal-scoring territory resulting in a brilliant Billings crumb-goal from stoppage play.
The Zebras continued to threaten, lifting the intensity once again - exemplified by Captain Anthony Seaton - and turning the tables to create more inside fifty opportunities than the Blues.
Bytel established himself in the contest, continuing to find the ball and win the clearances, whilst Peris looked dangerous when heading towards goal.
Hipwell was the recipient of an opportunity off the back of quick transition play, registering only a minor score, whilst Seaton too increased our margin by one point.
Keeler remained impactful around the ball, with his kick inside fifty in the twenty-second minute allowing Blake Watson a chance for goal. Watson was able to capitalise on a high tackle to convert his free kick into a major score.
The Zebras were able to hold onto a two goal lead heading into the final term, with Batch impressed by the team's accountability at the contest and their willingness to get the game back on their terms.
Going into the final quarter with an aim to keep attacking, the Zebras were confronted with a Carlton side who had brought another level of intensity.
Campbell's presence remained vital as our defence got to work to quell the Blue storm after they registered two early majors.
Bytel remained prolific in the midfield, but it was Noah Gown who provided our reply. A Captain's intercept mark off half-back allowed Jordan Segar to head inside fifty, finding Gown who slotted it home.
Watson provided a second look only three minutes later - with Noah Gown providing a strong lead to Watson's kick, winning the ball in a one-on-one battle.
Despite Gown registering a major score, we were unable to find one more - going down to the wire to eventually fall by three points on a sunny Sunday afternoon at IKON Park.
Final Score: Sandringham Zebras 10.8 (68) defeated by Carlton Blues 9.17 (71)
Goals: J. Billings (3), N. Gown (2), B. Watson, J. Peris, T. Campbell, I. Keeler, S. Latreille