Burgmann Fields, IL- A match for the ages was carried out on Friday night as the Wrigleyville Rhinos and the Lincoln Park Piranhas battled it out to see who would earn the right to meet the Lincoln Square Tigers in the CAFA Grand Final. On a Waveland Field which was as dry and hard as an African savannah, the Rhinos looked completely at home while the Piranhas flailed about like fish out of water. Many observers believed that a Drake, Wolfe and Scherless Rhino outfit would be no match for the might of Lincoln Park – but somebody forgot to tell Wrigleyville that!
Both teams arrived at the field with 13 players. Wrigleyville were without United players Drake and Wolfe while Lincoln Park were missing Gambaro and Kastilahn. Both teams were boosted with the inclusions of Tiger’s stars Brennan (Wrigleyville) and Uhlmann (Piranhas). It was predicted that the Rhinos would need to win by approximately 7 goals to displace the Piranhas from the Grand Final.
While both teams made plenty of noise as they took their positions on the field it was obvious from the initial whistle that there was one team that had really come to play. Wrigleyville dominated possession for the first five minutes as Lincoln Park looked flat and were continuously second to the ball. Forte looked dangerous from the outset as he attacked the ball from Center Half Forward. During this time poor kicking left the Rhinos without reward as they scored numerous behinds without a major. Then with their first foray forward, the Piranhas were able to score an easy goal, a goal which should have broken the spirits of the Wrigleyville players. In what was to become the trend throughout the game though, Wrigleyville kept coming at the Piranhas and scored the remaining 3 goals of the quarter. The first quarter ended with a strong final few minutes for Lincoln Park but like the Rhinos earlier, the goals were hard to find. Didak provided a run for the highlight reel bouncing the ball through the middle of the field only to hammer the ball into the goal post from 40 yards out.
Observations from this period of play were that Wrigleyville were dominating the center of the field despite Stacey controlling the ruck contests. Ward was proving to be in fine form up forward for Lincoln Park but was being starved of opportunities.
Quarter time scores. Wr 3.5-23 LP 1.4-10
Suddenly the game was heated up with an upset on the cards. The Piranhas returned to the field for the second quarter with a new fire in their eyes. Despite this it was once again Wrigleyville who jumped out of the blocks. After last week’s magical disappearing goal from ‘Jezza’ Morgan, he was able to score again this week with his best Ralph Macchio Karate Kid kick from the goal square as he was surrounded by three Piranha defenders. The onslaught continued as Tim, Toby, Rocky and Crackers ran riot through the center of the ground and linked up with ease with Forte up forward.
With the prospect of a Grand Final berth slipping away for Lincoln Park they threw their trump card, Ward, into the middle and McGlashan up forward to try and wrestle some control back. The move worked with Ward getting plenty of the ball and McGlashan kicking two goals for the quarter. Still it was not enough for the Piranhas to win the quarter and they went into the long break 18 points in arrears. If this pattern continued it would be Wrigleyville moving on to the season’s biggest game.
Half time scores. Wr 6.6-42 LP 3.6-24
The third quarter was a free flowing ordeal with both teams moving the ball relatively easily through the middle of the field. Didak was proving he was not just a clever forward by moving back onto Forte and providing a great contest for the crowd. Hayes found his legs and provided great movement through to his forwards while the Wrigleyville onballers continued their high work rate. The Piranhas though were relying too much on fast breaks out of defense while the ball was still spending the majority of time in the Rhino half of the ground. The quarter finished without either team able to grab the upper hand and leaving the match set up for a cracker of a last quarter.
Three quarter time scores. Wr 9.7-61 LP 6.7-43
Both captains tried to provide their team with inspirational speeches and both teams were confident that they could win the final quarter. The last 15 minutes were completely one sided though as the Wrigleyville Rhinos did not allow the ball out of their half and if not for some very poor kicking could have put the Grand Final berth beyond doubt. Forte, while dominating his position, had a wasteful game in front of goal kicking 6 behinds for the match. The Piranhas were left scoreless for the quarter while Wrigleyville kicked two goals, six behinds. Once again it was the Wrigleyville midfield who led their team while Ward was left exhausted for his efforts for the Piranhas.
Final scores. Wr 11.13-79 LP 6.7-43
There were tense moments after the game as both teams waited for web guru, Oscar, to calculate the final percentages and see who had earned the right to face off with the Tigers. A roar finally arose from the Rhino faithful as it was announced that they had overcome all odds and trumped the Piranhas by 1.8 percent, a difference of 4 points over the season. The Piranhas were devestated but acknowledged that their performance did not deserve a position in the Grand Final.
Wrigleyville can thank outstanding performances from their midfield players who continued to win the ball in the center despite Stacey winning the ruck contests. Rocky Deehan’s efforts to rove off the ruck contest was particularly impressive and set the standard for his team. Forte, who is tipped to be named as coach of Wrigleyville for the final, was dominant at center half forward and made some great moves in matching up on the Piranha stars. For Lincoln Park it was a case of not being able to provide opportunities for their forwards. Drake had named Ehlers as a major worry for the Rhinos but the ball simply did not get to him and it must have been a very frustrating night for the big fella.
This leaves a Lincoln Square versus Wrigleyville Grand Final to be held on Saturday, September 19 at 4:30pm at the usual spot. Both teams have a particular dislike for each other and will be desperate for a win. The match will be largely decided by who is able to get their top players available for a Saturday afternoon game. It will be a classic and one that all of Chicago will be fighting to get tickets for.
|Goals||Rhinos: Deehan (2), Forte (2), Hermann (2), Morgan J (2), Allen T, Brennan, Ambrosino
Piranhas: MacGlashan (2), Ward, Livie, Hayes, McKeegan
|Best||Rhinos: Deehan, Forte, Hermann, Allen T, Brennan, Borchardt
Piranhas: MacGlashan, Ward, Hayes, Elmore, Cisco, Sacco