An ankle injury to returning Launceston coach Sam Lonergan has soured another comprehensive Blues victory on Saturday at Windsor Park, writes TSL Digital Reporter Mitch Stagg.
The home side completely dismantled the hapless Tigers, eventually running out 91-point victors, 17.11 (113) to 3.4 (22) after leading at every change.
Lonergan made a promising start to his first outing of 2018, kicking the opening goal of the match inside 60 seconds, before rolling his ankle in a marking contest shortly thereafter. The Blues chief managed to play out the rest of the game, but was clearly hampered by the issue and remains in serious doubt for their huge clash with southern powerhouse, Glenorchy next week.
Lonergan had previously been sidelined by a nagging hamstring complaint and this latest ankle injury further compounds his frustrating start to the season. Assistant coach, Deb Reynolds was bullish on Lonergan’s prospects post match, but stopped short of guaranteeing his selection against the Magpies.
“He might be a little bit sore now, but we will see as the week progresses as to whether he gets up for next week’s game, but everything is favourable at the moment.” Reynolds said.
The injury to Lonergan was the only blemish in another powerful display by the Blues, who now sit on top of the TSL ladder.
Key forward Mitch Thorp put in another imposing performance, finishing with eight goals to take his season tally to 24 majors as he further stamps himself as the competition’s leading forward target. Reynolds and fellow assistant coach Chris Hills paid tribute to Thorp, but also lauded the work of the Blues around the ground, heaping special praise on rising star Jack Rushton.
“Mitch is coming along really well and gives us a main target up forward. If he can’t pull it down, he puts it to ground for the likes of Jack Ruston at his feet to finish it off, which is really pleasing.” Reynolds said
“Jack is really maturing and his pressure around the ball is unrivalled at the moment within our group and he is just creating opportunities through pressure.” Hills said.
The Blues kicked the opening five goals of the contest, exerting immense pressure on their southern counterparts, who were unable to withstand the onslaught. Edward Burrows-Cheng goaled late for the Tigers to stem the tide, but the Blues entered the first break with a 25-point advantage.
The second term was all one way traffic, as the Blues midfielders in Jay Blackberry, Jack Donnellan, Jake Hinds and Jake Smith capitalised on Hamish Leedham’s work in the ruck, giving their forwards plenty of opportunities to hit the scoreboard. Thorp kicked three goals in succession inside the first 10 minutes of the quarter and Jack Rushton harassed the Tigers defenders to lock the ball inside 50, as the Blues took an unassailable 56-point lead into the main break.
The Tigers started the third quarter in promising fashion, using the corridor to greater effect and disposing of the static ball movement that plagued them in the opening half. Blake Grant kicked the opening goal for the home side, but Dylan Riley and the collective Blues defence was able to contain the Tigers’ early momentum. Launceston kicked the final three goals of the quarter, with young Mariner Jamieson House (two goals) enjoying a purple patch in his first match in blue and white, as the margin extended to 69 points going into the final stanza.
Launceston would eventually run out 91-point winners, holding the Tigers to a solitary goal in the second half, as Mitch Thorp completed his day with three final term majors. In a bleak day for the visitors, Blake McCulloch, Ryan Matthews and Blake Grant toiled hard, while star midfielder Will Campbell faded after a strong opening half.
Tigers coach Trent Baumeler labelled his side’s performance as their worst of the season, but praised a professional and clinical Launceston outfit.
“It was probably our worst performance of the year to be honest, in terms of our ball movement, but also our inability to take Launceston’s game away from them.
“We had a defensive plan in place which couldn’t really execute, which is full credit to them. I think I might have mentioned in Thursday’s presser that they’re a pretty tough nut to crack and that proved to be the case today.” Coach Baumeler said.
The Tigers woes were further exacerbated by a hamstring injury to Ashley Humphrey, who looks set to miss a number of weeks, while Luke Graham will be monitored throughout the week after badly dislocating a finger late in the match.
Former Carlton defender Marcus Davies will also miss again for the Tigers, succumbing to a PCL injury in a further blow to their chances against a resurgent Clarence in round seven.
“He’s not running yet, but I would expect him probably not next week against Clarence, but probably the week after to be really pushing (for selection).” Coach Baumeler said.
Launceston could be further bolstered for this week’s clash against Glenorchy, with veteran forward Sonny Whiting kicking ten goals in the Mercury Cup on the comeback from injury.
“We have a pretty deep list and we have an expectation around the club that if you have an injury you work your way back through the D-League and Sonny has done that. He (Whiting) put a score on the board and played quite well, so he will push for selection again.” Assistant Coach Reynolds said.