The Benalla All Blacks received a massive reality check on Saturday, going down by 96 points against league leading Milawa in the Ovens & King league.
Despite challenging the undefeated Milawa at times, lapses in the second and fourth quarter meant the All Blacks were literally blown out of the water.
With key personnel in Chris O’Conner, Lochie Morrsion, Harry and Will Ellis and Zac Amarant all missing through injuries or unavailability, the All Blacks were without some of their most important players.
And it seemed not to worry the home side early, as they trailed Milawa by a slim 14 points at quarter time.
But it was five unanswered goals from Milawa in the second quarter, and another six goals in the final term that was too much for the All Blacks to overcome.
Despite the loss, Benalla coach Harry Moran said he was quite happy with the way his team performed under the circumstances.
“That last quarter really hurt us the most,” Moran said.
“We learnt a lot on Saturday.
“Our good patches were as good as we have played this season. But we were smashed, and the score reflects it.
And Moran believes his younger players in Josh Hyland and Lachie Sinclair, would have especially taken a lot out of the beating.
With the ball spending a majority of the game in Milawa’ attack, the All Blacks defence had their work cut out for them at Friendlies Oval.
“Obviously they conceded 100 points, but I thought our defence did really well,” Moran said.
“They rebounded well, but once it got to our half forward line it was then sling shotted back.”
“They played a big role in making sure it wasn’t a 120 to 150 plus score.”
Amongst the team’s best were two J’s - Jake Whitmore and Jack Ellis.
“Jake [Whitmore] is generally a forward, but we had to throw him back,” Moran said. “He was a standout.
“And Jack [Ellis’s] contested and intercept marks around the ground were crucial to us.”
And Sam Newton, who is regularly in the All Blacks best, was another who proved influential in the All Blacks defensive struggle.
“I don’t think he got a score on him,” Moran said.
“He was a stronghold down there.”
The All Blacks sit in ninth place on the ladder, and with six games remaining, the All Blacks are two wins outside the top six.
They will travel to Whitfield Recreation Reserve on Saturday to face off against fifth placed King Valley.
“We knocked them off earlier in the year, so we’re relatively confident,” Moran said.
“We know the way they play.
“We’ll put our best foot forward and hopefully get another feather in our cap.”
*Benalla All Blacks reserves side suffered their own defeat at the hands of Milawa on Saturday and were ultimately thrashed by 202 points. Even with the All Blacks ever reliable backline, led by the fearless Blake Goodwin, they couldn’t stop the delivery and precision the Demons possessed, while the Damon brothers – Jordan and Jacob - battled tirelessly all day through the centre.
Final score: Benalla All Blacks 1.2 (8) def by Milawa 15.14 (104)