PRESSURE, pressure, pressure was what Virginia coach, Stephen Papanotis demanded and it was three defensive acts that paved the way for the Rams’ first A grade premiership in 17 years.
The first was Devon Oliver’s goal-saving tackle on Jamie Good, matched by Matthew Young pinging the arms of Jason Earl in the third quarter, and culminating in Anthony Seccafien’s chase on Troy Algar, saving a goal as Mallala threatened a final term comeback.
The match was played at pace in stunning spring conditions, a classy snap from Virginia’s Cameron Felstead opening the goal tally, followed by majors to Brendon Niklaus and Ben Russell.
Gun Mallala wingman, Brad Hardie, pulled up sore after his first disposal but continued on.
Troy Algar got Mallala on the board, followed by a roving effort from Dan Feeley, but Niklaus notched his second before quarter time to give the Rams a 16-point lead at the first break.
Felstead’s first term was electric, while Algar again started dangerously, Nathan Warren receiving instructions to tighten up on the lively flanker.
Hardie’s brilliant snap in traffic started a run of goals for Mallala as the Magpies started to take control of the contest.
Brian Montgomery kicked his first and when Brent Harris slammed one through out of midair, Mallala had the lead.
The Rams needed a steadier and Billy Nikou provided it, while keeping a close check on Hardie, and Niklaus banged through his third to give his side some breathing space.
Andrew Ross (Virginia) and Brad Griffiths (Mallala) both goaled for their respective sides before half time and the Rams had steadied after looking shaky.
Jordan Clements was influential in the Mallala midfield, while Russell and Felstead had been vital for the Rams.
Emmanuel Tsimiklis spent a large portion of the first half off the ground but returned to the field to play out the match.
It was really the third quarter where Brad Robertson took control of the game.
He was rocked by a late hit in a marking contest from Hardie, who came off worse for wear, Robertson nailing the goal from the resulting 25m penalty.
Daniel Kerr kicked a great goal from a stoppage for Virginia and when Joel Montgomerie went down with a quad injury, Mallala looked in trouble.
Feeley kept Mallala in touch but back to back majors from Niklaus built the Rams’ lead to 25 points.
A late running goal from Jamie Good gave Mallala some life before three quarter time.
Robertson and Russell were on top in the midfield, while the efforts of Rob Montgomery and Jake Birchmore in defence had stopped a number of Virginia forward forays.
Battle of the day was the ruck contest between Ben Galic and Will Farrelly, which was arguably even in the end, a key result for Virginia considering the service Farrelly had given his midfielders most of the year.
Nathan Warren streaked into space for the opening goal of the last quarter and when Felstead nailed a classy left foot snap, the Magpies were on the ropes.
Joel Montgomerie bravely returned to the field under clear duress and slotted a goal from a forward line spillage to keep his side in it.
Billy Nikou sealed the deal for Virginia when he ran into an open goal but Mallala weren’t done with yet.
Brent Harris and Ben Parish chipped in with goals, either side of a brilliant long range effort from Nigel Osborn, who significantly lifted in the second half.
The equation was too much for the Magpies though, despite showing great heart to fight it out when it all seemed lost.
Virginia had a number of key contributors on the day, Robertson (best on ground) Russell and Galic the standouts.
Defensively, Adrian Mark, Devon Oliver, Anthony Seccafien and Anthony Bascombe were stellar, but the unsung hero was Felstead, particularly in the first half.
Niklaus had a good game, kicking five goals but missing a few shots you would expect him to get and dropping some marks he would take 99 times out of 100.
Nikou arguably quelled Hardie, who worked hard despite picking up a number of knocks during the contest.
For Mallala, Algar loomed as the game breaker and was by far the most dangerous Magpie on the ground.
Rob Montgomery did a brilliant job on Steven Pollock, keeping him goalless and took a number of defensive marks, along with Birchmore when shifted up to half back.
Clements was Mallala’s most consistent midfielder, with Montgomerie and Osborn solid but beaten on the day.