Western Storm conjures last-gasp victory against Lauderdale
THEY had to pull everything out of their bag of tricks but Western Storm conjured enough last-minute magic to make Lauderdale disappear from the TSL finals with nail-biting seven-point first semi-final win at Aurora Stadium yesterday.
The two vastly different teams went toe-to-toe in a furious battle on the big AFL ground and the smallest of things made the difference.
Only in the dying stages did the Storm do enough to stagger over the line 13.14 (92) to 13.7 (85) and book a preliminary final date with Clarence at Blundstone Arena next Saturday.
Lauderdale led early in the last when Thor Boscott kicked his third and scores were level at the 12-minute mark but Storm kicked two of the last three goals to fall over the line in a heart-stopper.
“We’re really disappointed,” said Lauderdale coach Darren Winter. “It was a really good game of footy and obviously you’ve got to have a loser and we’re on the wrong end of that.
“We kept plugging away and had a couple of chances which we didn’t take, but we’re very disappointed. We’ll saddle up and have another crack next year.”
The Storm ran the ball effectively on the outside and towering ruckman Cody Thorp gave his boys a good look at the Sherrin despite the heroics of young Bomber opponent Aden “AJ” Johnson, who staggered off with a badly dislocated shoulder from the opening bounce of the final term.
Bomber Bryce Walsh was a clearance machine in the first half and despite being heavily tagged by one of Storm’s best, Thane Bardenhagen, in the second the tough-as-nails ginger-top still topped Lauderdale’s stats sheet for possessions.
Bomber forwards Ben Halton and Michael Cassidy were on fire in the first half, marking strongly and kicked two goals each.
Halton blew his knee just before half time, allowing Storm to double-team Cassidy.
Storm’s baby-faced assassins, key defenders Will Hanson and Lewis Ritchie, were brilliant in the final term, mopping up almost everything that went inside their defensive 50 and starving Lauderdale of scoring opportunities.
Storm giant Bart McCulloch started the game as the player most likely to pull the kill-shot on Lauderdale, but his gun mostly fired blanks after Jack Siggins moved into him.
“Siggo” shut “Bart” down, locked the door and threw away the key in a brilliant, albeit non-glamourous performance.
The Storm now has Clarence in its sights in the hopes of exacting revenge on North Launceston, which has beaten Storm twice in a row, in the grand final at Aurora in two weeks.
“I put it on the boys at half time that it was all or nothing, that they needed to throw everything into this game, and they were able to do that, they really stood up and it’s awesome to see that in a final,” said Storm coach Mitch Hills.
“It showed a lot of character of our team and our club and we’ll certainly roll on to next week and give a good performance against Clarence.”