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Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 4:39 PM by Chris Pike

WITH Ben Rioli kicking three goals and Cody Ninyette booting the winning goal, it was a NAIDOC Week victory to savour for South Fremantle against Claremont by a solitary point on Saturday.

South Fremantle and Claremont continued its hot recent rivalry with another tremendous battle on Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with the Bulldogs holding on for the one-point triumph.

It was back at the same venue as last year's Grand Final where South Fremantle also defeated Claremont but the recent rivalry between the Bulldogs and Tigers has been fascinating beyond that.

This recent rivalry saw South Fremantle win hard fought qualifying and preliminary finals back in 2019 before Claremont had a convincing 47-point win in last year's second semi-final before South Fremantle hit back to win the Grand Final.

Claremont won their earlier battle this season by 16 points at Revo Fitness Stadium but Saturday back at Fremantle Community Bank Oval for NAIDOC Round always loomed as being another chapter.

The two teams have annually played off for the Jimmy Melbourne Cup since 2007 during NAIDOC Week and Claremont has dominated those battles winning 10 of the 13 encounters coming into Saturday's game.

It turned into a see-saw contest most of the way with Nick Suban putting South Fremantle 10 points up 10 minutes into the last quarter only for Claremont to kick the next two goals to be back in front.

Ultimately and fittingly for NAIDOC Week, it was Cody Ninyette who kicked the game's last goal and South Fremantle would go on to win 11.2 (68) to 9.13 (67).

What that means is that both teams are locked on identical 8-3 records for the season and separated by less than four percentage points on the ladder from second to third position.

Claremont might have had nine more scoring shots for the game along with collecting 39 more possessions, taking six more marks and going inside-50 on 10 more occasions, but South Fremantle took its chances better in an efficient display to come out winners while laying 91 tackles.

The new-look South Fremantle forward-line for the day worked a treat with Ben Rioli kicking three goals from his seven kicks and five tackles while Blake Schlensog provided a strong target in the air and kicked two goals from four kicks, three marks and two tackles.

Zac Dent played his first league game since last year's Grand Final and was superb off half-back for South Fremantle with 26 possessions while Haiden Schloithe enjoyed the captaincy role with 23 disposals, eight tackles and a goal.

Jacob Dragovich also had 22 possessions for the Bulldogs, Tom Blechynden 18, Zac Strom 17 and Aiden Hall 15.

South Fremantle's back-line stood up well with Noah Strom and Blayne Wilson combining to hold Claremont key forwards Jack Buller and Jacob Van Rooyen to just the eight combined kicks, four marks and two behinds.

South Fremantle tried a very much makeshift forward-line in the absence of Mason Shaw, Steve Edwards, Matthew Parker and Dylan Main, and it was Blake Schlensog and Ben Rioli who were what coach Todd Curley came up with.

It paid off immediately with the pair combining for South Fremantle's first three goals of the game inside the opening 15 minutes. Claremont stayed in touch, though, with a Jye Bolton goal and then a couple quickly to Callan England and Ryan Lim saw the Tigers take the lead.

But a clever finish after a good handball from Schlensog to captain-for-the-day Haiden Schloithe had South Fremantle two points up by quarter-time.

The goals dried up significantly in the second quarter with Rioli managing to stretch South Fremantle's lead with his third at the 10-minute mark before Isaac Barton got an answer for Claremont at the 19-minute mark.

The Bulldogs still clung to a two-point advantage at half-time before a second of the day to Barton opened the second half with Claremont taking the lead.

Schlensog's second goal soon after brought scores level again and then Zac Strom took a strong pack mark and converted to put the Bulldogs on top.

But a third to Barton and second to England had Claremont in front again just before three quarter-time. They only were up by a point, though, thanks to a late South Fremantle goal to second-gamer Aiden Hall.

It took only two minutes into the final term for South Fremantle to grab the lead with a crafty snap from Manfred Kelly. Nick Suban then kicked truly in front of the Bulldogs members and celebrated in trademark style as his team's lead grew to 10 points.

Claremont was never going to lie down, though, and responded with the next two goals from Jake Patmore and Lim to take a four-point lead into time-on.

Jimmy Miller found Cody Ninyette in space inside-50 and after a quiet day, the Indigenous star celebrated NAIDOC Week in style by kicking truly to put South Fremantle.

Claremont had a couple of golden chances in front of goal in the dying stages, but couldn’t convert and South Fremantle held on for the one-point win.

The day started with the colts contest which saw Claremont beat South Fremantle 17.6 (108) to 6.4 (40).

South Fremantle's goals came from Lochlan Bloomer, Tom Ogden, Julian Hulten, Aaron Drage, Caleb Stephens and Chase Bourne while Stephens also had 28 possessions, Regan Ward 17, Thomas Regan 17, Toby Dodds 17 and Jesse Heywood 17.

And then in the reserves, South Fremantle fell just short of the comeback victory with Claremont winning 10.9 (69) to 9.8 (62).

Nathan Spooner and Jaxon Bellchambers kicked two goals each for the Bulldogs while George Wessels collected 22 possessions, Matthew Ward 21, Bellchambers 19, Seaton Thompson 16 and Jacob Sax 16.


SOUTH FREMANTLE        4.0    5.1    8.1    11.2 (68)
CLAREMONT            3.4    4.5    7.8    9.13 (67)

SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Rioli 3; Schlensog 2; Schloithe, Suban, Ninyette, Z Strom, Hall, Kelly.
Best – Dent, Schloithe, Z Strom, Blechynden, Dragovich, N Strom, Hall.
CLAREMONT: Goals – Barton 3; Lim, England 2; Bolton, Patmore.
Best – Bolton, Lim, Hardisty, Barton, Elliott, England, Edwards.