North Launceston has sent a resounding message to the rest of the competition with a dominant 53-point victory over fellow premiership fancies Launceston at Windsor Park, writes Mitch Stagg.
The cross-town top of the table clash was the showpiece of the round, with the rivalry intensifying once proceedings got underway, as the Bombers flexed their muscle to once again stamp themselves as the competition’s premier side.
The 15.13 (103) to 7.8 (50) win was set up by an eight goal to one opening half, with Tom Couch booting four of his five majors for the day, including three in the second quarter. The ex-Bombers coach had a hand in everything, setting up a further three goals for his teammates, as the Blues were rendered powerless to stop his influence at half forward.
The former Melbourne Demon polled maximum votes for the second time this season, after recommitting to the Bombers as a fly-in player in between his commitments with Tennis Australia.
“With Tom, he is a person that provides nearly more off the field than he does on the field. He is a great leader and he is a person that we want around our football club.
“We’re lucky enough to have him for the next 4-5 weeks and he is a great person and he can obviously play football as well,” Bombers coach Taylor Whitford said.
Launceston appeared to be up for the fight in the first term, coming out on top in most key markers, except on the scoreboard, as a string of wasted forward entries let the Bombers off the hook. The Blues would have seven scoring shots to four, but trailed by seven points at the first change.
“I thought we were quite lucky with Launceston not capitalising in the first. I think they kicked maybe five or six points, which probably let us off the hook a little bit early and we were lucky enough to kick two or three goals into it (the breeze), which really helped,” Whitford said.
From there Couch took control, with two booming goals from outside fifty and another composed finish from an acute angle the highlight of a five goal to nil second term that swung the contest in the visitors’ favour. He was ably supported by Bradley Cox-Goodyer (4 goals), who enjoyed possibly his best match of the season, as the margin ballooned out to 46 points at the main break.
The Blues toiled hard in the second half, but were left to lament their second quarter capitulation, as the Bombers led by 53 points at the final change and held onto that margin in an evenly fought final stanza.
Jobi Harper competed strongly in his first senior match on return from an ankle reconstruction and leading competition goal kicker Mitch Thorp found his groove in the second half with three goals, but the Blues had very few winners on the day.
Coach Sam Lonergan was magnanimous in defeat, but was disappointed in his side’s inability to apply scoreboard pressure and play four quarters of consistent football.
“I think what the boys brought in the first quarter is a level of what I believe we can do for a full four quarters. We have done it for a full four quarters against other teams, but we just to make sure we do it against the best teams.
“The most disappointing thing was the second quarter. I think we really went away from what we tried to do, which is what happened in round one. You lose by fifty points and thirty points to zero in that second quarter really sets up that sort of margin.” Lonergan said.
The home side’s loss was further compounded by a knee injury to star midfielder Jay Blackberry. The silky left footballer fell awkwardly late in the second term and was stretchered from the field. Post match the injury was assessed as ligament damage, with a period on the sidelines of between 4-8 weeks forecast for the former Tassie Mariner.
The Blues will now look forward to consecutive trips to the southern end of the state, starting with North Hobart this week, while the Bombers will face off against a faltering Tigers outfit at UTAS Stadium.
Launceston 1.6, 1.6, 3.6, 7.8 (50)
North Launceston 3.1, 8.10, 11.11, 15.13 (103)
Launceston: M. Thorp 3, J. Gillow 2, B. Palfreyman, S. Whiting
North Launceston: T. Couch 5, B. Cox-Goodyer 4, T. Bennett 2, T. Donnelly, J. Ponting, Z. Burt, T. Whitford
Launceston: J. Harper, D. Riley, C. Brown, J. Donnellan, J. Rushton, B. Palfreyman
North Launceston: T. Couch, T. Whitford, T. Bennett, B. Cox-Goodyer, M. Walsh, A. Richter-Salter