Launceston outclass Tigers

Written by Alex FitzGerald

Launceston reminded the rest of the competition that they’re very much a contender this season, putting together a big second half against the Tigers in wet conditions at Twin Ovals on their way to a resounding 81 point victory.

Despite outplaying the Tigers in the first half, the Blues led by only 16 points at the main break, before slamming on ten unanswered goals to control the remainder of the game, running out 15.14 (104) to 3.5(23) winners.

Launceston spent most of the first quarter in attack, but found it hard to break free from the clutches of Tiger tackles to hit the scoreboard.  Enter Sonny Whiting, who outmarked his opponent twice to goal, the second coming from a spectacular grab above the pack.  The Blues had their third when they goaled from an advantage free kick after a sloppy tackle on Chayce Jones, but any celebrations were quickly put aside as the Mariner was stretchered from the field with an apparent ankle injury sustained during the incident.  The Tigers kicked their first major late in the term through Braden Livingston, and went into the break behind 1.2 (8) to 3.2 (20).

The second term was an arm-wrestle, with many stoppages through the middle of the ground as both sides found it hard to break free and generate run.  Young Tigers forwards Hugh Dixon and Mitch Walker both calmly converted difficult set shots to bring the home side back into the contest, but a huge term from Nathan O’Donohue across half forward saw two quick Launceston replies as the Blues went into the rooms at half time ahead 5.8 (38) to 3.4 (22).

Launceston hit the ground running after the main break, with forwards Rulla Kelly-Mansell and Whiting proving to be a handful up forward.  Whiting booted another two goals for the term as the Blues slotted four, and at three quarter time they led 9.11 (65) to 3.5 (23).

Launceston stamped their authority on the match in the final quarter, with their fast ball movement from one end of the ground to the other providing consistent highlights.  Every Blue seemed to be playing well, and they dominated the term to boot 6 goals and keep the luckless Tigers scoreless, walking off Twin Ovals overwhelming 15.14 (104) to 3.5 (23) winners.

Tigers’ coach Aaron Vince was gutted after the match, and was as candid as they come.

“We’re utterly disappointed.  Our effort today was insipid, and won’t be accepted.

“Our stoppage work was deplorable; we got smashed.”

Despite the result, Vince praised his defenders’ battle against the consistent barrage of Launceston forward entries, particularly the efforts of versatile backman Tyler Carter and debutant Ben Graham.

“Our backline were under the pump today.  They had 66 inside 50’s, and every time you put your defence under that much pressure, you’re not going to win that much footy.

“Tyler Carter was probably our only one on one winner today; Graham was probably cleaner with his skills than most of our senior players.”

Carter was clearly the Tigers’ best player, repelling many forward entries with intercept marks and tackles.  Mitch Carter also played well in defence, with debutants Graham and Toby Cowen trying hard across the middle, along with Mariners captain Lachlan Clifford.

Launceston playing coach Sam Lonergan was pleased with his charges post-match.

“To get the result that we did today was fantastic; it’s a good result for our playing group and a reward for the hard work they’ve been doing.”

He praised the whole playing group for their second half, not singling out any specific playing line.

“Our backs set up really well, they started to intercept and rebound the footy from defensive 50, and when it’s coming out of the backline (and through the midfield) like that, it gives your forwards every opportunity to take marks and kick goals.”

Launceston was well-served by defenders Stuart Williams, Jake Smith and Mariner squad member Casey Brown, with Lonergan describing the latter’s third quarter as ‘unbelievable.’  Lonergan had a lot of the ball in the midfield, aided by another huge performance from ruckman Hamish Leedham.  Nathan O’Donohue imposed himself on the game at half-forward, with five kicks inside the Blues’ attacking 50 in the second term alone, with Rulla Kelly-Mansell also providing plenty of drive forward.  The forward standout of the day was Sonny Whiting, with his six goals and strong marking the stark difference between the two forward lines.

When asked about the strong form of  Kelly-Mansell and Whiting, and in particular the fact that neither were named in the initial state squad to face the NEAFL, Lonergan pulled no punches.

“We’re sitting fourth on the ladder and we have three (players selected).

“There are multiple sides underneath us with higher numbers of players in the squad.  Rulla is definitely one player that I thought should have definitely been in the squad, and his form from an outside point of view puts him in the top ten in the comp at the moment.  But it (the non-selection) will drive them to work harder.”
Launceston face the Hobart City Demons at North Hobart Oval next week in what should be a huge match, with the Demons fresh off an upset one point win over Clarence and looking to claim a spot inside the five.  Things don’t get any easier for the Tigers, as they’ll travel to UTAS Stadium to face an undefeated and firing North Launceston, in what will be a big challenge for the out of sorts southern club.