By Alex FitzGerald
North Launceston have re-emerged as front runners for the flag after defeating Lauderdale at a muddy SkyBus Oval on Saturday, with the Northern powerhouse claiming top spot on the BUPA TSL ladder in the process.
The Bombers controlled the midfield battle to lead their Southern namesakes at every change, eventually running out 45-point winners in a physical, and at times spiteful contest in trying conditions.
The visitors booted four goals to one with a strong breeze in the opening term, with all four majors the result of free kicks. Classy wingman Nic Baker slotted a long curling goal to register Lauderdale’s first , but that would remain the only real highlight on a day to forget for the hosts, who managed just two more six-pointers as North Launceston midfield trio Brad Cox-Goodyer, Josh Ponting and Jordan Tepper ran riot.
The hosts weren’t helped by the late withdrawals of captain Bryce Walsh (knee) and inside midfielder Phil Bellchambers (ankle) before the first bounce, but Lauderdale coach Darren Winter refused to blame injuries for his side’s disappointing performance.
“It’s not ideal, but I suppose everybody is faced with injuries different stages in the footy season,” he said.
“To lose two guys who probably would have flourished in those conditions was a little bit tough, but that’s just the way it is.”
While Winter was clearly frustrated with his side’s ill-discipline in defence early on in the match, he was also forthcoming with praise for how North Launceston stuck to their game plan.
“When you give their first four goals of the game from free kicks it’s hard to make that up when goals were so hard to get,” he said.
“They played really good wet weather footy. They set up well behind the ball and we got sucked up the ground and they kept chopping it off when they kicked against the breeze.”
“I thought they were really structured well, and they held that structure all day.”
The Southern outfit now appear unlikely to reclaim top spot due to only having one remaining roster match (against Glenorchy) ahead of finals action.
Still, with a top-two berth sewn up, Winter’s focus has turned to making sure the Bombers do all they can to find the red-hot form they displayed early in the season proper.
“I’m pretty dirty on the outcome of the game obviously, and we’ll work hard in the next few weeks to fix it up.”
“We’ve had a good season so far, (but) the last couple of weeks have been a bit rusty and we’re coming off the back of five or six games in a row.
” We’ll try and get Glenorchy, have a bit of a spell and get ready for the finals.”
A relieved North Launceston coach Taylor Whitford was pleased his charges were finally able to beat Lauderdale in season 2019 after going down in the sides’ two previous clashes.
The fact that it was Lauderdale’s first loss at home made the victory even sweeter.
“To come down here with a howling wind and some rain going sideways, to play like that was good,” he said.
“I think the last time Lauderdale got us around the contest, and at stoppages today we were great.”
Whitford was keen to highlight the consistency of the brand his side have been playing, with the coach believing the fact that they now sit atop the ladder is just a by-product of getting the little things right every week.
“We’ve just got to keep winning and playing good footy,” he said.
“We’re not setting ourselves for top spot, we’re setting ourselves for Grand Final day.”
North Launceston will face North Hobart at Invermay Park next week, before taking on a resurgent Glenorchy at KGV in the last week before finals.
North Launceston 4.3, 5.3, 8.10, 9.14 (68)
Lauderdale 1.1, 2.2, 2.4, 3.5 (23)
North Launceston: J. Ponting 2, W. Edmunds, J. Rushton. S. Egger, B. Simpson, T. Donnelly, K. Wadley, B. Cox-Goodyer
Lauderdale : O. Shaw, N. Baker, M. Anderton
North Launceston: B. Cox-Goodyer, J. Ponting, B. McCulloch, L. Davies, J. Tepper, B. van Buuren
Lauderdale : B. McGuinness, N. Baker, O. Shaw, E. Trupp