LIKELY top-five prospect Sam Walsh has given recruiters another indication of why he's classed as the best midfielder in this year's NAB AFL Draft, but his performance was not enough to drag Vic Country over the line against Vic Metro at the MCG.
Despite a late fightback from Vic Country, who closed the gap to just five points at the start of the final term, Metro's class across the board was telling as the game was up for grabs and they claimed a 26-point victory.
Top-10 prospect Ben King's second goal from outside 50 with just minutes remaining topped off Metro's third-straight win of the Under-18 Championships, 13.6 (84) to 8.10 (58), as they chase their third title in a row.
Walsh, from the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup, was the most consistent performer on the ground, winning a match-high 29 disposals, five clearances and kicking one goal.
Versatile Xavier Duursma was also influential for Country with 19 disposals, five clearances and seven inside 50s, with his breakaway speed a highlight.
However, led by Rhylee West, the son of Western Bulldogs champion Scott, Metro's class across the board and depth through the midfield was the difference in the end.
With similar traits to his famous father, West will be right on the radar of the Bulldogs as a father-son prospect after gathering 20 disposals and winning five clearances.
Bailey Smith, in contention to be a top-20 pick, booted three goals and gave Metro plenty of run and carry with his 14 disposals, while Noah Answerth (19 touches and two goals) and Curtis Taylor (three goals) were also influential.
It wasn't all good news for Metro, with highly-touted midfielder Jack Bytel leaving the field in the final quarter with his arm draped in his jumper as a makeshift sling.
Rhylee West gets a handpass away despite a Vic Country tackle. Picture: AFL Photos
Metro took control of the contest in the second term by kicking five goals to Country's one and took a 27-point lead into half-time, and it appeared as if they might run away with the contest.
But a re-energised Country team emerged from the rooms after the main break and with the focus of playing on at every opportunity and moving the ball with speed they hauled themselves back into the contest with an inspired third term.
Oscar Brownless, the son of Geelong champion Billy, slotted a beautiful banana goal off a step from the boundary in the third quarter, while Ned McHenry (two goals) and Sam Flanders (two goals) led the way on the scoreboard for Country.
Brownless is eligible to be drafted as a father-son recruit to Geelong at the end of the season and gave Cats recruiters a glimpse of how versatile he could be as a lead-up forward.
Vic Country's Mitchell Riordan limped off with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and was visibly upset on the bench as he realised the extent of his injury.
The championships continue on Friday, with round four action at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong.
The Allies will meet South Australia, with Vic Country to do battle with Western Australia and Vic Metro having its bye.
VIC METRO 4.1 9.1 9.5 13.6 (84)
VIC COUNTRY 3.1 4.4 7.6 8.10 (58)
Vic Metro: Smith 3, Taylor 3, Answerth 2, King 2, O'Halloran 2, Collier-Dawkins
Vic Country: McHenry 2, Flanders 2, Walsh, Bowman, Brownless, Keighran
Vic Metro: Smith, West, Taylor, McKenzie, Answerth, Rowbottom
Vic Country: Walsh, Duursma, McHenry, Flanders, Bowman