Clarence make it three in a row
Written by Matt Hill
The Clarence Roos produced a stunning upsetÂ coming from behind to down minor premier LauncestonÂ claiming their third Mercury Cup (Development League) premiership in as many years.
Launceston entered the Grand Final with a strong record over Clarence, winning three out of their four encounters (including the finals match by 23 points). In the three home and away rostered matches, both sides could only be separated by 11 points in each clash, so it was all set up for another classic contest and that is what it produced.
The Blues dominated early on, settling into the grand final better than their southern opponents, their ball movement wasÂ exquisite and resulted in the first goal of the game through Ethan Conway.Â Clarence weathered the storm well to prevent Launceston from seeing their early advantage stack up on the scoreboard. It was tackles galore in the wet and slippery conditions with both sides desperate to get their hands on the ball, a trend that continued across four quarters.
Clarence booted their first major through Trent Hope before Launcestonâ€™s Matt Spohn laid a great tackle to win a free kick in his forward 50 and go back to slot Launcestonâ€™s second.Â Jared Dakin kicked a great snap moments later for the Blues and they finallyÂ got some reward for their dominance.Â Noticeably in the first Clarence played a very high forward line as they looked to hurt Launceston on their quick counter attacks. This worked perfectly with Luke Murfitt-Cowen kicking his first, running into an open goal before minutes later kicking a second to reduce the margin to a one point deficit at quarter time.
In the second stanza, the Blues stretched out their lead and looked likely to run away with it, three goals to one saw the Blues maintain their superiority. Zac Griffiths kicked a great pack snap which only just snuck over the line with a bounce directly on the line but luckily it went through for the Blues. Conway and Spohn both kicked their second, with Spohn drilling an incredible goal from the boundary line. Howlett then struck back for the Roos as he kicked Clarenceâ€™s only goal for the quarter to see Launceston go into the main break with a promising 14-point lead.
In what was literally the premiership quarter, a determined Clarence got right back into the game, setting up a grandstand finish in the last. Bradford kicked the first of the second half for Clarence before veteran Launceston midfielder Jordan Harris booted a major for the Blues. Another Pagans Paddock goal for Murfitt-Cowen saw him boot his third and then when Brenner goaled, Clarence were right back in it. Oldenholf finished off one for the Blues which saw them hold on to a slender five point lead.
In the last, it was all Clarence with the Roos booting four goals through McGuinness, Murfitt-Cowen, Young and Hope whilst the Blues were helpless and could only manage three behinds. They were the best team all year, only losing two matches and dominating the majority of the last day in September but the Blues couldnâ€™t hang on against a fast-finishing Clarence who ran out 18-point winners.
Luke Murfitt-Cowen was awarded the best player on the ground for his four-goal effort, guiding the Roos to a third straight premiership as the club continue to dominate the second tier competition.
Mercury Cup Grand Final 23/09/2017
Clarence- 3.1, 4.1, 7.5, 11.7 (73)
Launceston- 3.2, 6.3, 8.4, 8.7 (55)
Clarence- L.Murfitt-Cowen 4, T.Hope 2, B.McGuinness 1, J.Young 1, J.Brenner 1, S.Bradford 1, K.Howlett 1
Launceston- E.Conway 2, M.Spohn 2, Z.Griffiths 1, J.Harris 1, Z.Oldenholf 1, J.Dakin 1
Clarence- L.Murfitt-Cowen, T. Hanslow, B. Dart, J. Brenner, T. Hope, K. Howlett
M. Spohn, T. Cooper, E. Conway, C. Curtis, C. Downie, G. Holt