Written by Alex FitzGerald
Glenorchy defeated a resilient Launceston by six points in what was undoubtedly one of the games of the season as fourth squared off against fifth at KGV Oval in a tantalising taster of September action.
The Blues fought back after conceding five goals to one in the opening term to lead with five minutes remaining, but two clutch Mitch Rainbird goals in time on saw the Magpies fall over the line to finish 14.6 (90) to 12.12 (84) winners.
Glenorchy opened their account in the first term through a Brodie Rowbottom major, with follow up goals to Jaye Bowden and Harry Pearce seeing the visitors on the ropes early as they desperately defended the barrage of forward entries. Sonny Whiting converted from a tight angle to register the Blues’ first goal, but back to back Glenorchy goals inside a minute saw the accurate hosts take a healthy 5.0 (30) to 1.3 (9) lead into the first change.
The second quarter saw a fired up Launceston wrestle back control, with a long goal to Mariner Jake Hinds swinging through the big sticks early. Two crunching tackles on the wing from tall defender Jimmy Aganas led to a turnover and Connor Smith goal, and when ruckman Hamish Leedham kicked truly soon after, the Blues were within a point. Second majors to Pearce and Tyler Bowden settled things down for the Pies, but another Launceston three goal streak, including two classy Jay Blackberry majors, saw the visitors head into the rooms at half-time ahead 7.6 (48) to 7.1 (43).
The third term opened with 10 minutes of goalless play, as both sides battled to take control. A dangerous kick across half back by the Blues was intercepted by Jaye Bowden, who set up a Glenorchy goal, and the Magpies slotted another soon after to hit the lead. Two free kicks from physical contests resulted in Launceston goals not long afterwards as they reclaimed the lead, but the Magpies tumbled two quick goals through in response to set up a tense final term, going into the three quarter time huddle holding a slim 11.4 (70) to 9.9 (63) lead.
The Blues kicked the first two goals of the final stanza through Rulla Kelly-Mansell and Sam Rundle, but Rowbottom’s timely second major offset the damage for the Magpies. Launceston defender Thomas Sheppard’s brave mark midway running back with the flight of the ball midway through the term highlighted the desperation of both sides, with the vocal crowd clearly enjoying the enthralling contest. When Kelly-Mansell somehow managed to kick truly on the run from an impossible angle late in the quarter to give the Blues a seven point lead, it looked like Launceston might hang on. Enter Magpie midfielder Mitch Rainbird, who pushed forward to take two contested marks, converting both from long range to see his side edge ahead for a thrilling 14.6 (90) to 12.12 (84) victory.
The Magpies again had injury woes as Josh Watts and Mitch Hills both limping off, a relieved Glenorchy coach Aaron Cornelius was happy to get the four points.
“It was a good result but again we limped to the line with injuries. I’m really proud of the boys and how they dug in; our younger guys were really good today.”
Cornelius was full of praise for the efforts of Launceston, who he had described as one of the best sides in the competition earlier in the week.
“They’re a formidable side; they’re very hard, they’ve got some physical guys and they’re very potent up forward. I think that the move the ball in nice and quick and their foot skills have gone to another level.”
He conceded that the Magpies’ leaders had spoken to the playing group with passion at half time after conceding six goals in the second term and that a return to playing their signature style of football had seen his side regain control.
“I think we made a few structural errors (in the second term); we had to make sure we played the way we did in the first quarter and that the guys stuck to the structures that we designed for the game.”
Glenorchy’s midfield brigade was solid throughout the match, with polished left-footer Rhys Mott a standout with his disposal at both ends of the ground. Jaye Bowden and captain Brayden Webb collected plenty of the ball to finish with three and two goals respectively, but it was final quarter hero Rainbird who earned a special mention from Cornelius post-game.
“He’s a bit of an x-factor and I think he really showed that today; Mitch was on the bench with 14 minutes to go and we put it to him and he responded really well and stood up. He won some crucial clearances and impressed with his two-way running.”
Launceston coach Sam Lonergan was not happy to go down in a nail biter but was proud of the character shown.
“As a coach, every time you lose you walk off disappointed, but with their four quarter effort, I thought our boys were fantastic today and probably a bit unlucky in the last couple of minutes not to get the win.”
He was pleased with how his side stood up in a match played with finals like-intensity, and hoped that the game would set them up to hold down a place in the top five.
“We’ve got a bit of work ahead of us to make sure we get there; I think once we get there we can really shake a couple of sides up. We’ve got to focus week by week and make sure we try to lock away that fifth spot.”
Lonergan was full of praise for the brave efforts of his defenders, particularly Jimmy Aganas and Simon Vandervelde.
“It’s his (Vandervelde’s) first full year of senior football; he’s 18 years old and really raw to the sport. His year has been fantastic and we’ve got some guys like him who are putting their hand up and having a massive crack and taking their opportunity.”
Jake Hinds played well above his years to have an influence on the match through the midfield for the Blues, as did Joe Boyce and Jay Blackberry. Thomas Sheppard and Mariner Casey Brown also impressed Lonergan with their willingness to embrace the physicality of the contest, while Rulla Kelly-Mansell stood up in the final term to slot two crucial goals.
The Blues face a resurgent Devonport on the road next week before the bye gives them some extra time to prepare for the Northern showdown with North Launceston at Windsor Park in the final round of the home and away fixture. Glenorchy have a fortnight to recover for a clash with the Tigers at Twin Ovals, then face rivals Clarence in what will be a huge match before finals commence.
GLENORCHY v. LAUNCESTON
Round 18 – 05/08/2017
Glenorchy 5.0, 7.1, 7.1, 14.6 (90)
Launceston 1.3, 7.6, 7.6, 12.12 (84)
GOALS, Glenorchy :
J. Bowden 3, B. Rowbottom 2, H. Pearce 2, B. Webb 2, T. Bowden 2, M. Rainbird 2,
J. Webb 1
R. Kelly-Mansell 2, J. Hinds 2, J. Smith 1, H. Leedham 1, C. Smith 1, S. Whiting 1,
J. Nunn 1, J. Blackberry 1, B. Palfreyman 1, S. Rundle 1
BEST, Glenorchy :
R. Mott, C. Daly, J. Bowden, B. Webb, C. Duffy, M. Rainbird
J. Boyce, J. Hinds, S. Vandervelde, C. Brown, J. Blackberry, T. Sheppard