Sunday 12 September 2010

Morningside held firm under suffocating pressure in the dying minutes to hold off Southport by seven points in a see-sawing QAFL preliminary final at Giffin Park, Coorparoo today.

The Panthers meet Cinderella side Labrador in what shapes as a classic grand final at the same venue at 2.15pm next Sunday.

Morningside earned their third successive grand final berth the hard way, putting themselves under pressure early, taking control through the middle stages, then surviving a final onslaught from the Sharks to win 8.17 (65) to 9.4 (58).

The fact that Southport could manage just 13 scoring shots on a fine, albeit windy day reflects just how good the Morningside defenders – and overall team defensive pressure – were.

Aaron Rogers was best afield with a sterling four quarter performance at centre-half-back, Jarrod Price was outstanding in holding Sharks gun Cleve Hughes scoreless until the six-minute mark of the final term, Nathan Kinch generated important run, and Tom Bell worked his way on top of elusive Shark Cameron Maclaren.

It was a memorable way for Panthers defender Nick ‘Doc’ Tomlinson to celebrate his 150th game. Tomlinson was typically solid and an important cog in the back six that stifled the Sharks so strongly.

It all began so promisingly for the Sharks, who finished third for the second consecutive season.

Kicking into the teeth of the breeze when it was at its strongest, the Sharks held Morningside goalless for the first 28 minutes of the match.

Rover Matthew Payne was everywhere and generated most of the momentum, while Kurt Nicklaus destroyed the ball well against Kent Abey and Tom Daniel mopped up everything across half-back.

Missing inspirational skipper Danny Wise, who didn’t come up from a hamstring despite being positive he would, the Sharks were strong in the midfield with Adam Devine providing plenty of support to Payne and Maclaren leading and marking strongly.

Both sides made plenty of mistakes early and the Panthers’ kicking for goal was yet again poor, with the usually reliable Austin Lucy missing a shot from 30m on the run that he would normally gobble up, and Abey missing from 20m directly in front after a terrific pack mark.

Five consecutive behinds were finally broken by a Mark Rootsey goal sharking the back of a scrimmage, but Southport held the whip hand trailing 1.1 to 1.5 at the first break.

Tackling became a feature of the game in the second term with both sides effecting some brilliant ‘impossible’ efforts, but neither was able to gain the ascendency.

Payne continued to win numerous possessions at both ends of the ground, while Jack Lawler reflected the courage being shown by both sides when leaping high running back with the flight of the ball, knowing he would be crunched by oncoming traffic – and was.

Josh and Sam Brown created a goal each and several other scoring opportunities for the Panthers with their run and carry, while Michael Wise got involved for Southport floating through the middle of the ground on a number of occasions.

The Sharks led by two points at the long break, but effectively lost the game in the last 20 minutes of the third term, when they conceded five unanswered goals.

Morningside began the quarter with three straight behinds before the Sharks eventually took the ball the length of the field and Brad Scalzo goalled to lead by four points at the nine-minute mark.

The Panthers then took over the centre clearances, with Jacob Gough looking much less tentative with his rib injury and giving his side plenty of forward momentum.

Ryan Holman, who had been given the job of locking down on Payne, made a clean centre break for the lively Shaun Mugavin to kick his second goal, then Damien Bonney won a free kick after being slung out of a pack.

Bonney was tagged by David Lynch and while the Shark did a good job, Bonney too never stopped attacking the ball and had a reasonable impact during the third quarter charge.

When Nick Clark, back in the side after an injury layoff and week in the reserves, ran down the ground to finish off a string of handpasses with a good goal, the Panthers had booted four in 10 minutes.

Any time the ball did go into Southport’s attacking 50m arc, Rogers cut it off. The former ACT star must have taken eight marks for the quarter and was simply unpassable.

Holman’s snap from 40m that bounced on its point and broke the right way for a goal on the stroke of three-quarter-time gave the Panthers a 28-point lead and all the momentum.

Yet it quickly changed again, with the Southport defence suddenly winning every one-on-one battle through much of the final term.

Daniel, a former Ainslie player, was superb with his rebound, Niklaus and Bourke took good contested marks and Hughes finally came into the game at the other end.

He found some space on the lead at the six-minute mark and when he got his second at the 20-minute mark, the Sharks were within seven points.

Payne broke the shackles to again win numerous possessions and with young Dalton Tucker constantly finding the ball on a wing, the Sharks were poised to run all over the Panthers.

They were unable to deliver the final knockout blow, with each side registering a solitary behind in the last nine minutes of the game.

Class Southport wingman David James, solid but not outstanding all day, just missed with a set shot from 50m at the 22-minute mark.

Kinch and Bell both produced some heroics in the dying stages when caught one-on-one with opponents, before Abey won a crucial free kick by throwing himself at the ball at the 27-minute mark.

He was forced off under the blood rule, but the experienced Paul Shelton kicked 30m backwards instead of kicking to a contest in the goalsquare.

The Panthers drained a valuable minute from the clock and eventually did pump the ball into the square, where the Southport defence knocked the ball through for a rushed behind, making the margin seven points and impossible to overhaul.

Rogers was magnificent for the victors, while Shelton and Alastair Nash – who again nullified the influence of Sharks matchwinner Darren Pfeiffer – were terrific.

Mugavin never stopped presenting from full-forward and despite the close attention of Bourke, finished with 2.4 in a strong display, while Price’s performance was invaluable at the other end for the Panthers.

Payne was simply dynamic in three of the four quarters for the Sharks, while Daniel gave everything and shapes as a top drawer player if fit for a full season next winter.

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