Sunday 5 September 2010

Labrador lifted themselves off the canvas to produce one of the great finals comebacks and beat Morningside by seven points in a second semi-final thriller at Cooke-Murphy Oval today.

Playing their first ever home final and searching for a maiden grand final berth after 14 years in the QAFL, the Tigers looked dead and buried at three-quarter-time when they trailed the visitors by 23 points.

With rain falling throughout the second half, a heavy, slippery ball, and having failed to kick a goal in the third term, the listless Labrador suddenly came alive.

They booted 6.4 to 1.4 in a stunning finale, hitting the front at the 23-minute mark of the final term and holding on for a memorable 14.12 (96) to 12.17 (89) triumph.

It was easily the best game of the final series in front of a big crowd at Cooke-Murphy Oval, despite the rain and cloud.

Labrador’s comeback was built around a strong final term by ruckman Peter Everitt, who collected five possessions in the opening four minutes and palmed the ball masterly at the bounces and throw-ins.

Rover Todd Featherstone, who was outstanding in the first term before being negated through the middle stages, gave his side a spark at the fall of the ball and his prostate, exhausted body in the changerooms after the game reflected his effort.

Captain Aaron Shattock was the steadying influence, taking four marks on the defensive goalline in the last five minutes and playing a huge role in the decisive final half hour.

There was also an important cameo by Tim Notting, who – like Everitt – rose to the challenge when everything was on the line.

Notting, who had kicked 9.9 in two previous games against Morningside and proved a real handful, was limited to a solitary behind in the opening three quarters by the Tom Bell-Aaron Rogers tag team combination.

Yet Notting conjured two goals, one a critical set shot from a tight angle and the other the matchwinner, to finish with a vital contribution.

First year Langwarrin recruit Shane Paterson was also critical.

Running head-to-head with Panthers ace Paul Shelton, Paterson won his share of ball but was soundly beaten by the influential Shelton in the opening three quarters.

He kept at the job and turned the tables in the last quarter as the Tigers turned the game on its head.

Just as importantly, Dustin Mills was able to quell the influence of roaming half-forward Austin Lucy, who had proved a handful all day and had the better of the in-form Steve Wrigley.

After having been well-beaten early, Wrigley responded with a number of saving marks in defence in the final term, and was not scared to run forward to link up play through the midfield. 

Labrador started solidly and led by seven points at quarter-time through the agency of Featherstone, lively half-forward Mark Vigus, centre-half-forward Russell Alleway, rebounding half-back Mat Clarke and tagger Curtis Allen.

Allen was given the job of shutting down Panthers star Damien Bonney and he did so with great effect.

Bonney did briefly get away from him in the third quarter, but he locked down again in the fourth term to take a solid win over a man who has been as good as any player in the competition over the last two months.

Morningside had a surprise in store at the start with Jacob Gough playing with his injured ribs and not entering the fray until midway through the first term.

He had a short five-minute spell because youngster Tom Hickey was doing a solid job against Everitt and Trent Knobel.

Gough only had 10 minutes more on the ground in the second term, but he helped the Panthers pull back a 13-point Tigers lead midway through the term.

Jason Howard was causing plenty of problems with his run and two clever goals for Labrador, although Shaun Mugavin and Lucy kept their side right in the game, along with two goals in as many minutes by Sam Brown.

Regular full-back Nick Stockdale was unable to take his place in Labrador’s side with a  hamstring injury and Mugavin made the most of it, not only kicking goals but setting up others with clever tap ons and blocks.

He had two to halftime and booted three in the third quarter, where the Panthers took full control.

Gough rucked for the first 20 minutes and his palming gave the midfield an armchair ride as the same time as regular tagger Jake Thomlinson came strongly into the game.

Alastair Nash won a mountain of the ball through the midfield and with Rogers stopping everything across half-back, Morningside generated 11 scoring shots to three for the term.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, they kicked a wasteful 4.7 to 0.3, which contributed to their downfall as much as four misses from within 20 metres did in the first half.

Labrador kicked three goals in the first 10 minutes of the final term before Tyson Upton found space inside a crowded 50m arc to goal and send the margin out to 11 points.

The ball continued to be locked into Labrador’s forward half for long periods and they kept getting superior numbers around the ball to create goals.

They sat on their lead of a goal or less for six minutes, until Notting’s flying shot from 60m with 20 seconds remaining ensured victory.

Labrador’s only concern out of the game was the report of key ruckman Trent Knobel on a rough play charge.

Knobel collided with Josh Brown as both ran at a contested ball, and Brown stayed down for several minutes before leaving the field holding his neck, although he later returned to play out the game.

Knobel was good early with a strong mark in the goalsquare and goal, while he took a big pack mark in the last two minutes across half-back to deny the Panthers.

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