As fellow finals contenders continue to battle for spots inside the top five, ladder leader North Launceston proved once again why they are still the measuring stick of the competition, TSL Digital Media Reporter Ryan Rosendale writes.
Fresh off their one-point victory over cross town rivals in Round 15, North Launceston continued to stake their claim at a back-to-back premiership with a decisive 79-point victory over the Tigers this past Saturday.
After being challenged by Launceston and escaping with the tightest of victories last week, the Bombers traveled to the Twin Ovals for the first time this season and while many expected the much-improved Tigers to challenge the Bombers, they were instead taught a lesson in team-first football by North Launceston on their way to a 16.11 (107) to 5.4 (34) victory.
The Bombers were all systems go from the opening bounce, holding the Tigers to the solitary Mitchell Cooke major in the first half, and if not for some inaccurate kicking throughout the half – 8.9 – the game would have well and truly been put to bed at the long break.
With a goal inside the opening minute for the Tigers through Blake Grant it seemed as though momentum might shift in the third term but despite another long-bomb goal to Mitch Carter, it was a string of six unanswered goals to the Bombers that well and truly put the game to bed at the final change.
The Tigers were able to control the contest in the last, keeping the game in their forward half before Bart McCulloch was able to kick the Bombers only goal late in the quarter to add to his two in the third.
“We probably played three and a half quarters today and we probably haven’t played a full four quarter effort this year so three and a half, we’ll take that,” North Launceston coach Taylor Whitford said post-match.
“I spoke about putting scoreboard pressure on today and the first half we didn’t do that; I think we kicked something like 8.9 so we had to put scoreboard pressure on to get the game going and I think in the third quarter we were able to do that a little better which put us in a good position.”
“We were a little disappointed,” Whitford said on how his side performed in the last quarter.
“The first 15 to 20 minutes of the last we weren’t great. We just couldn’t adapt to the way they were playing. We weren’t able to get any ball in hand and get it into our forward half but once we did that again in the last ten or so minutes I thought we looked okay.”
While Whitford acknowledged that the win came on the back of a 22-man effort, midfielder Josh Ponting continued his fine form with another best on ground effort along with 150th gamer Brad Cox-Goodyear while the Bombers forward line of Whitford (three), McCulloch (three), Tom Bennett (three) and Dakota Bannister (two) were far too dangerous for the Tigers defenders.
“There were some things we tried to put in place after the Launceston games, just some areas we thought we could do better and I think we did that today,” Whitford said in regard to the forward group.
“We just got a little bit more pressure in there. I thought Dakota was good and he had some things to work on coming out of the Launceston game and it was really positive that he was able to do that and his pressure was really good, probably didn’t lay as many tackles but his ability to get to the next contest was pleasing.”
Tigers coach Trent Baumeler conceded that while Saturday’s game wasn’t a step backwards, the players were taught a lesson by last year’s premiers.
“We got a taught a good lesson today in work rate (by North Launceston),” Baumeler said post-match.
“I thought their work rate away from stoppage offensively and then defensively if we were able to turn it over was first class and that’s why they’ve been so good (for so long).”
Baumeler’s message post-game to the group was about using the loss as a learning experience as to where the club and players want to get to in terms of what North Launceston do well to be such a well-balanced and successful club.
Forward-turned-midfielder Blake Grant again thrived in his new role, collecting plenty of ball and was clearly the Tigers best performer across the four quarters; while usual suspects Will Campbell, Lachy Clifford and Marcus Davies all battled hard throughout.
Key defender Jake Doran finished the game with a dislocated shoulder and Baumeler didn’t expect the former Hobart City big man to feature again this season.
North Launceston will again the hit highway this weekend when they face a rebounding Glenorchy at KGV, while the Tigers head into the bye before finishing the season with games against finals bound Lauderdale (A), Glenorchy (H), Launceston (A) and Clarence (A).
Tigers – 0.1 1.2 3.2 5.6 (36)
Goals: M. Carter, M. Cooke, B. Grant, E. Burrows-Cheng, S. Duigan
Best: B. Grant, W. Campbell, M. Davies, H. Johnston, L. Clifford, B. Rees
North Launceston – 3.6 8.9 15.11 17.13 (115)
Goals: B. McCulloch (3), T. Whitford (3), T. Bennett (3), B. Simpson (2), D. Bannister (2), B. Cox-Goodyear (2), T. Donnelly, S. Egger
Best: J. Ponting, R. Mansell, B. Cox-Goodyear, J. Cousens, Z. Burt, F. Bennett