Written by Anthony Osborn
Launceston have bounced back onto the winners list in stunning fashion, running out 15.11 (101) to 13.12 (90) victors in a thriller at Lauderdale.
On an overcast and gloomy day, Launceston were able to get the chocolates in a tense, passionate, physical and highly-entertaining affair.
The Bombers had the majority of the play early in the match and went into the first break with a slender five point lead after two early Ethan Whish-Wilson goals.
The Blues were quick out of the blocks in the second term but as it turned out the second quarter would ultimately belong to Lauderdale, with Alex Hevey kicking two goals late in the term to swing the tide the Bombers’ way.
Launceston’s victory, however, came off the back of a dominant third quarter, where Rulla Kelly-Mansell booted two vital majors, including one on the run late in the term that set Launceston up with a 17-point lead heading into the final change.
The final term saw the game move to yet another level of intensity, with both sides trading blows in an enthralling, fast-paced shootout.
Bryce Walsh’s clutch captain’s goal 12 minutes into the final term reduced the deficit to just five points, and at that point it looked like the Bombers would be able to run over the top with a vocal crowd on their side.
After trading blows again with goal for goal action, Robbie McManus kicked a ripper from the pocket to cut the deficit back to five once more after 21 minutes of final term football as the Lauderdale faithful began to roar.
Some crucial errors late saw 50 metre penalties galor and coupled with high efficiency from forward entries and a defiant defence, the visitors produced a stirring victory and resigned the Bombers to a 0-3 start to 2017.
Launceston playing coach Sam Lonergan was pleased that his side were able to withstand the Bombers’ early dominance in general play and get on top in the second half.
“Uncontested marks were heavily against us (in the first half). They (Lauderdale) controlled the footy a lot, and we really needed to tighten up on that, which we did in the second half.”
Lonergan was pleased that his side stood up to a fast-finishing Lauderdale, believing his Blues would have lost a game in similar circumstances, last season.
“We finished second-last last year, so we have a lot of improvement to do. Our guys will get good belief from today, and it is a good sign that we are going in the right direction.”
Lonergan is upbeat about where his club sits at this stage of the season, stating that they are ahead of where he thought they might be at this stage.
“We only had five wins for the season last year, so there are some good signs that the guys are really involved in the club. There is a great feeling of people buying into the club and wanting to be involved, which is something we probably didn’t have last year.”
Brodie Palfreyman and Jordan Harris were impressive in the Blues’ victory, while Brendan Taylor was dominant, kicking two goals and accumulating plenty of the football in his best performance of the season.
The efforts of Miller Hodge and James Gillow, both playing their first games of the season, were also impressive, while Robbie McManus was impressive all day for Lauderdale, kicking multiple goals, as was captain Bryce Walsh, who impressed after a quiet match last week against Clarence.
Dylan Fyfe, Josh McGuinness, Nat Franklin and Toutai Havea also showed plenty of promise in patches.
Lonergan’s opposite number Darren Winter rued some costly errors and poor decision-making in the tight loss.
“It was a close one for most of the day. You would like to win those, but unfortunately someone has to lose, and we probably gave some easy goals away.
“We have got some of our game plan horribly wrong in the first few weeks. We may need to change our personnel if it continues to happen. We just can’t keep having the same butchering of the ball in the middle of the ground and giving the opposition easy goals.”
Launceston will play host to Clarence at Windsor Park next Sunday, while Lauderdale will host the Hobart City Demons at Lauderdale on Saturday in what could be a make-or-break match for the Bombers.
“The season is starting to slip away. You can’t be 0-3. If we don’t get a win next week it will make it very difficult to make the finals,” Winter explained.