It was fourth versus fifth as Glenorchy hosted Launceston at KGV and the game certainly lived up to it’s billing, as a clash between two finals contenders in a thrilling contest which went right down to the wire. In the end it was the reigning premiers who came out on top by one straight kick to even the ledger in clashes between these two sides this season at one win each. The Southern Magpies jumped out of the gate early to lead by 21 points at quarter time, however the resilient Blues came roaring back with a six goal second term to go in, in front at the main break and the game remained a tight tussle from then on.
Joe Boyce continued to excel after his move to the backline since his return from injury and his drive out of defence was a key factor for the Blues with his exciting bursts kickstarting many Launceston attacks. Simon Vandervelde returned refreshed after a week off and was excellent at the back, his work in one on ones and also his ability to read the play and impact aerial contests went a long way to helping keep Glenorchy’s key forwards quiet. Another young defender in Casey Brown also continued his fine season and has now been named in the best in over half the senior games he’s played this year.
Jake Hinds has shown why he’s involved in elite under age programs in the glimpses we’ve seen of him when he’s been available this season and Saturday was no different. He kicked two goals but a real feature of his game was his ability to contribute to all three areas of the field, with his ability to drift back and take crucial marks in defence equally impressive as his clearance work and his impact on the scoreboard. Launceston’s other multiple goal kicker was Rulla Kelly-Mansell, who kicked two including a remarkable goal of the year contender; a snap over his shoulder from an impossible angle in the ‘wrong’ pocket for a left footer.
Big man Tim Auckland was given a well deserved senior TSL debut after his outstanding form in the Mercury Cup and certainly didn’t look out of place at the level, splitting his time between full forward and relieving Hamish Leedham in the ruck. Midfielders Jay Blackberry and Tom Sheppard both continued their consistent seasons with typically solid displays. A great feature of the game for Launceston was the even spread of contributions, typified by the fact that the Blues had no less than ten individual goal kickers on the day.
Next week the Blues take on the other Magpies in Devonport at Devonport oval at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. A crucial last two games looms for Launceston, with Hobart City Demons breathing down their neck on equal points in the fight for the last finals berth. A win for Launceston and a loss for the Demons in their tough encounter away at Lauderdale would all but secure a place in the finals for the Blues, however equally it could all come down to the final round of the season. This will be the third time Launceston have faced Devonport this season, with the Blues coming out on top in both previous encounters.
Launceston goals: Kelly-Mansell 2, Hinds 2, J. Smith, Leedham, C. Smith, Whiting, Nunn, Blackberry, Palfreyman, Rundle
Launceston best: Boyce, Hinds, Vandervelde, Brown, Blackberry, T. Sheppard
Mercury Cup Report
Launceston’s Mercury Cup side maintained their six point lead over Clarence at the top of the table with a commanding 99 point win over Glenorchy at KGV. It could have been much worse for the Southern Magpies but for their great efficiency going forward coupled with a little bit of inaccuracy from the Blues at times, with Launceston having 43 scoring shots to 9. Glenorchy showed some fight in the third quarter to win that term, but a nine goal final term for Launceston blew the margin out to just shy of triple figures.
James Gillow returned from injury in fine style and was everywhere in a dominant best on ground display. He racked up a team high 30 disposals, a team high 12 marks including a team high three contested marks, and also booted two goals as one of six multiple goal kickers for the Blues. Jacob Boyd captained the side and the forward continued his fine run of form with 17 disposals, six marks, a team high five tackles and three goals, with his strong tackling a particular standout. Another in form player in Miller Hodge collected 18 disposals, five marks and four tackles as wingers such as he and James Gillow exerted their influence on the wide expanses of KGV.
Johnathan Marsden is really starting to hit his stride at the level after starting the season in the under 18’s and enjoyed probably his best game of the season to date with 21 disposals and six marks. Leading goal kicker Zac Oldenhof extended his lead with half a dozen goals to his name, while he also hit double figures in marks for the second week in a row. Grant Holt had 23 disposals, nine marks and three goals, while Zach Griffiths also kicked three. Launceston’s other multiple goal kicker was Matthew Spohn, who continues to rack up plenty of the ball and had 21 disposals, ten marks, nine hit outs and two goals. Other major ball winners for the Blues included Joseph Bangura with 22 disposals, Tom Cooper with 19 disposals and six marks, Ethan Conway with 18 disposals, 11 hit outs and a goal, and Matt Hutchinson with 18 disposals.
With just two games left in the home and away season, Launceston could wrap up the minor premiership with a win over arch rivals North Launceston this Friday night at Invermay Park regardless of results elsewhere. This will be the third game between the two this season, with the ledger currently standing at one win apiece. The last time the two sides met was in round 12 when it was the Northern Bombers who won by 29 points despite an inaccurate Launceston having more scoring shots.
Launceston goals: Oldenhof 6, Griffiths 3, Boyd 3, Gr. Holt 3, Gillow 2, Spohn 2, Conway, Bruinewoud
Launceston best: Gillow, Hodge, Boyd, Marsden, Griffiths