Written by Ryan Rosendale and Anthony Osborn
It was one of the most mouth-watering finals in recent memory with Eastern Shore rivals Clarence and Lauderdale going head-to-head in an Elimination Final, and while the game may not have lived up to the hype, the victorious Bombers certainly proved they are a genuine premiership threat come the final siren.
Despite the home side heading into the game with a number of key injuries, many expected the encounter to be a tight, hard fought and physical contest and while they may have seen the latter two, a six-goal to two opening half saw the Bombers open up a 26-point lead at the long break.
It was after the break however when last year’s grand finalists really got the ball rolling, slamming on eight third-term majors to the ‘Roos one to eventually run out winners 15.15 (105) to 6.11 (47).
With the game well and truly put to bed at the final change, the Bombers eased their foot off the gas somewhat in the last, allowing the Roos to draw in the final margin to 58-points when it appeared it could have finished in the triple-digits throughout the third.
With skipper Bryce Walsh missing through injury, midfield bull Phil Bellchambers was at his rampaging best, collecting plenty of the ball and kicking two goals while forward Jacob Gillbee was the star of the show with five majors.
The likes of Henry Kerinaiua and Tim Mosquito also threatened on the wide expanses of Blundstone Arena, as did silky wingman Rhys Sutton, who looks to be hitting some of his best form at the right time of the season.
It was however the roles of Josh McGuinness and Leo Harrison on Clarence stars Jake Cox and Brady Jones respectively that were an important part in the Bombers victory.
McGuinness, who had effectively shut Cox down when the side’s met back in round 15’s Stay ChatTY Cup clash, did the job once again, silencing the mercurial Clarence star for much of the clash.
“I think Coxy is the best player in the comp and he is someone that has got a hold of us a few times and done a lot of damage,” Lauderdale assistant coach Clint Brown said post game.
“Josh did a really good job on him last time and we thought psychologically that if Josh went to him again, it could do some damage to his thinking.
“He did a really good job and I don’t think Jake had any influence on the game at all,” Brown said.
The injury-hit ‘Roos, already missing the likes of Jackson O’Brien, Matt Ling, Gabby Chambers and Fraser Turner, were dealt another cruel blow on the eve of the clash, losing star ruckman Ryan Bailey.
Although it perhaps wasn’t his most dominant of matches, Lauderdale big man Haydn Smith made the most of this advantage, providing his midfield brigade of Nat Franklin, Phil Bellchambers and Nic Baker first use for much of the evening.
“We knew that they were undermanned going into the game, so we probably went in as favourites with the personnel they had out. We knew that they are a proud club and that they would come out firing. They did that early and I think we did a good job keeping them scoreless for a long time,” Brown said.
The Bombers’ defensive efforts were superb, conceding just two goals in the opening half and six for the game, with three of these goals coming in the dying stages of the contest.
This stingy defensive effort was built off of pressure on the ball carrier, something the team had a focus on leading into the clash, and something that had a clear effect, with the ‘Roos use out of the back half costly throughout the night.
“It was something we put a lot of focus on.
“They use the ball well by foot, so we tried to shut down the boundaries and encourage them to come back through the corridor,” Brown said.
Lauderdale will have two injury concerns to keep an eye on, with gun defender Mitch Anderton ending the night on the bench due to some tightness in his adductor, while fellow young gun Jeremiah Perkins only played part of the match due to illness earlier in the week.
Clarence’s loss extended an unflattering record of not having won a final since 2013, while Lauderdale extended it’s strong run of form against the ‘Roos at Blundstone Arena, notching win number three in a row.
Lauderdale will now prepare for a huge Semi Final showdown with Launceston at UTAS Stadium, with the winner of that clash set to meet the loser of North Launceston and Glenorchy for a spot in the 2018 decider, and after starting the finals in this sort of form, there is no reason to think the Bombers of Lauderdale can’t do it all over again and make the big dance.
Clarence 0.1, 2.4, 3.8, 6.11 (47)
Lauderdale 3.4, 6.6, 14.12, 15.15 (105)
Clarence : J. Webberley 2, T. Cunliffe, O. Paprotny, T. Standen, T. Castle
Lauderdale : J. Gillbee 5, H. Kerinaiua 2, R. Wiggins 2, N. Franklin 2, P. Bellchambers 2, C. Laoumtzis, A. Hill
Clarence : J. Webberley, B. Jones, O. Paprotny, J. Holmes, T. Cunliffe, J. Bailey
Lauderdale : J. McGuinness, R. Sutton, J. Gillbee, O. Shaw, N. Baker, N. Raglione