Rivalries are forged by repeated battles, through triumph and heartbreaks with some still so raw. We are lucky to be blessed with such a rivalry and can witness its latest chapter this Friday night.
For two sides last year’s Gridiron SA season appeared headed in different directions. The Spartans were perfect through ten games and qualified directly for the Great Southern Bowl. Its opponent would be the Razorbacks (Hogs) who had limped home with a 5-5 record after QB Josh Welbourn (passer rating 123.5) was lost to the season prior to the first meeting between the two clubs. The Hogs would win their fifth straight with a resolute defensive stop on a 4th and 1 in overtime to stun the Spartans.
Gridiron SA’s graphic shows the stats from the three battles the Spartans and Razorbacks took part in. Those stats reflect the Spartans prominence as a running team with a strong defense and the Hogs as the better passing outfit of the two.
This year has begun, as expected, with both sides winning two-from-two with both having faced the Eagles and Chiefs. The Spartans defense has been magnificent and hasn’t conceded in the two games. Whilst, with Welbourn (#8) back, the Hogs offense and passing game has thrived especially against the Chiefs last weekend when they put up 61 on the board, with five passing touchdowns for Welbourn, and three receiving Touchdowns to Sam Morton (#10). Brendon Thera-Plamondon (#83) had two receiving Touchdowns in the Hogs first game of the season and a rushing TD from an end around.
The matchup, of the Hogs passing game against the Spartans defense, is intriguing. Will their running game pose enough of a threat to the Spartans who will do everything possible to limit Welbourn’s effectiveness? Receivers Morton, Renney (#11), Thera-Plamondon and Olsson (#85) have a good secondary lined up against them, including Brad Vegera (#24) who had 8 interceptions during 2017 of which 4 were against the Razorbacks.
Whilst that will be a critical matchup, the other side of the ball will also be key in determining the winner. Can the Hogs stop the Spartans running attack spear-headed by last year’s Gridiron SA MVP Damian Vollar (#36) and Isaac Musallam (#14), who had two rushing TD’s against the Chiefs in Round 2? Will QB Nathan Van Pamelen (#19) be able to take advantage of the Hogs stacking the box?
I encourage all reading this to get to the game and bring a friend who hasn’t seen a local game before. It will be well worth your effort and will begin a fantastic long weekend! Kick off is Friday at 7pm at Port Adelaide Rugby Club.