The Northern Territory came up trumps in a top shelf contest against Morningside in Darwin last night.

Sunday 11 July 2010

The NT Thunder kept their perfect Darwin record in tact and made a serious downpayment on a finals berth by beating Morningside by 16 points in a cracking contest at TIO Stadium last night.

Despite being unsettled by late withdrawals, the Thunder jumped the Panthers at the start and then withstood a final quarter charge to register a 14.11 (95) to 11.13 (79) success, their first triumph over Morningside in four attempts.

Significantly, the win kept the Thunder in fourth place ahead of Mt Gravatt on percentage and a game clear of the chasing pack.

It also proved that the Thunder’s best is capable of beating the elite in the competition, the Territory now having beaten superpowers Morningside and Southport this season.

Their problem has been that a high turnover of players has contributed to them losing to sides below them, most notably twice to Redland.

With their under 18 contingent available for the remainder of the season, the Thunder will take some dislodging from a finals berth.

The Thunder won last night without a dominant performance by star midfielder Cameron Ilett, who still did some good things but was followed all night by Sam Faure.

The home side’s experienced players, ruckmen and defence played significant roles.

Morningside powerhouse Jacob Gough destroyed the Thunder at their previous three meetings but State ruckman Kenrick Tyrrell stood tall, more than matching Gough in every department.

“Kenrick’s first half in particular was sensational and he went on with it,” said satisfied Thunder coach Murray Davis.

Ryan Smith backed up Tyrrell strongly and kicked two important goals.

Former Brisbane Lion Shannon Rusca played one of his best games for the Thunder, showing he has overcome the effects of a knee reconstruction and will be a key player moving forward.

Experienced campaigners Brett Goodes and Jarred Ilett were outstanding, Goodes marshalling the defense and Ilett burrowing under every pack.

Ilett’s chase down and tackle of Damien Bonney through the middle of the ground at a key stage of the final term was inspirational and had the biggest TIO Stadium crowd of the year roaring their approval.

“Jarred is not renowned for his leg-speed but he just willed himself to do it,” said Davis, who was full of praise for Ilett’s overall contribution.

The Thunder set the game up in the first term when they converted 4.4 to a wasteful 0.7 by the Panthers.

In a high standard contest, Morningside pegged back the home side by a goal in each of the next two quarters to trail by 11 points at the last change and threaten to overrun the Thunder as they had done every time previously.

The alarm bells were ringing loudly for the home side when the Panthers booted the first two goals of the final term to take the lead, but they showed great character to go blow for blow with the Panthers as the ball zipped between the half-back lines and then nail the game in time-on.

“That was the most pleasing part of the game, the character that our players showed,” Davis said. “Morningside had the momentum in the last quarter but we kicked some really good goals in time-on and that proved to be enough.”

Key forward Kent Abey was the only Morningside forward to trouble the Panthers and his five goals kept his side in the game.

Tall defenders Aaron Rogers and Jarrod Price worked overtime repelling a glut of ball, with Austin Lucy and Nick Clark providing regular avenues from defence to attack.

Rogers’ marking was a feature of the game, while Lucy’s hard running from half-forward up the ground posed problems all night for the Thunder.

The downside of the evening for the home side was a striking charge laid against Cam Ilett for allegedly hitting Faure.

It was an impressive performance considering Zephi Skinner was again unavailable, the well performed Shaun Wilson was a late withdrawal, and important key defender Cam Roberts nicked a calf in the opening 15 minutes.  

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