Labrador overran Morningside by 32 points to take outright possession of second place on the QAFL premiership table at Esplen Oval today.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Labrador saved their best football for last to overrun Morningside by 32 points and take outright possession of second place on the QAFL premiership table at Esplen Oval today.

The Tigers’ storming finish erased memories of their final quarter capitulation to the Panthers a month ago and leaves them just two wins away from guaranteeing their fourth ever QAFL finals appearance.

Just three points separated the sides at the last change in a game of substantial momentum swings, but the Tigers regained control of the middle and exposed Morningside’s height deficiencies in defence to win 16.20 (116) to 12.12 (84).

The Tigers had full control of the midfield for the first 15 minutes of the game and opened up a 14-point break courtesy of Jason Howard, Todd Featherstone and Todd Grayson.

State debutant Damien Bonney, who was outstanding against Tasmania last week, started in brilliant fashion again today, chopping off a number of Tiger attacks and effecting four straight centre clearances that resulted in Morningside goals late in the quarter.

Three of those goals came within 90 seconds of each other, with Bonney kicking two of them.

As a result, Morningside went into the first break seven points up, but the Tigers regained control as specialist tagger Curtis Allen locked down on Bonney.

Allen had started the game at half-back, but his close-checking tactics frustrated Bonney and the duo engaged in a two-man war for the next two quarters, with the second term in particular especially fiery.

Morningside had created the loose man easily in the opening quarter but the Tigers put more numbers around the ball and their strong tackling pressure forced plenty of turnovers.

They also got caught in the physicality of the game and as a result the Tigers booted five unanswered goals to halftime, taking a 20-point lead into the long break.

Both teams gave away undisciplined free kicks as they played the man instead of the ball, but both had refocused by the time they ran back out for the second half.

When Labrador goalled six minutes into the third term they led by 25 points, but the Morningside midfield suddenly took complete control.

Jacob Gough dominated the hit-outs against Peter Everitt and Adam Cooke all day, and gave an armchair ride to Tyson Upton, Mark Rootsey and Mark Kimball in the third term.

With Sam Faure lively, Alastair Nash constantly finding space, and Austin Lucy providing run from half-back, the Panthers hit the front with their fifth unanswered goal in 15 minutes after having been goalless for the 34 minutes prior to that.

Aaron Rogers and Tim Notting put on the best man-to-man duel of the season over the first three quarters, with Notting managing 3.3 but Rogers doing some outstanding work for his side from full-back.

However, Notting’s third on the stroke of three-quarter-time break wrested back the lead for the Tigers and was a timely confidence-booster.

The Tigers went into the huddle well aware that they had lost a 25-point fourth quarter lead to lose to Morningside by seven points on the Gold Coast a month ago when they tried to save the game instead of winning it.

“We certainly addressed that issue at three-quarter-time,” said Tigers coach Jarrod Field. “Last time we went into our shells and didn’t have the balls to win it – this time we did.

“We were able to finish over the top of them which doesn’t happen very often at this venue.”

They key was regaining control of the midfield, which the Tigers in fact dominated for the final half hour.

“They smashed us at the centre bounces and I was really concerned about what was going on there,” Field said of the Panthers’ third quarter charge. “We addressed that at three quarter time as well.

“The blokes coming off the line weren’t getting involved. It was four on four in the middle but they were getting numbers in from the outside and we weren’t. We made the point that we had to shut them down and get the centre clearances going our way.

“We were better in the last quarter and they didn’t get any clean takeaways.”

Shane Paterson, Mark Vigus, Tony Lester and Featherstone kept pushing the ball forward for Labrador, while their big men took six contested marks between them in the final stanza.

Notting’s last quarter was simply brilliant.

Moved up to the half-forward line, he won a number of key possessions around the middle of the ground and kicked the goal that broke Morningside’s back 16 minutes in, feigning a set shot at goal from 65m, running around Rogers, bouncing and goalling from 50m. He finished with 4.5 for the day.

Everitt too stood tall when the game was up for grabs.

Well beaten by Gough for three quarters, he played a deep forward role and booted the critical first goal of the final term when he ran with the flight of the ball and leapt high into an oncoming pack to mark in the goalsquare, ala Wayne Carey at his best.

He finished with two important goals for the quarter.

Russell Alleway, who had his hands full with emerging youngster Tom Bell for three quarters, led and marked strongly after being pushed back to the goalsquare and took a number of soaring marks.

He too finished with two goals for the quarter. 

The Panthers simply did not have the height to count the tall forwards, with Brett Connell sidelined through injury and Jarrod Price returning from injury through the reserves.

With ball magnet Paul Shelton overseas, the Panthers were vulnerable, so their effort for three quarters was more than commendable.

Nash and Faure were lively for most of the day, Gough was outstanding, and Rogers, Bell and Nic Tomlinson were terrific in defence.

But they didn’t have the ammunition to go with the Tigers, who were missing Trent Knobel, Fred Sleeth and James Slattery from their best 22.

While Grayson and Mills were super all day, Emmaus Wartova and the strong marking Steve Wrigley did some important things at half-forward during the day, Stanis Susuve was controlled at half-back, and Vigus was lively all over the ground.

Nick Stockdale kept Shaun Mugavin to a solitary goal, while Aaron Shattock’s nullifying job on Kent Abey was critical to the final outcome.    

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