Launceston weren’t phased by back to back Hobart trips as they overcame Clarence by 33 points to continue their impressive September run and book themselves a place in the preliminary final against the odds. The Roos got off to a fast start to lead by 14 points at quarter time, but once again the Blues didn’t panic, coming back to kick eight of the next ten goals to set up what was a comfortable win in the end. Launceston made just once change to the elimination final side, with co-captain Sam Rundle returning for Jordan Harris, who was a late replacement for Rundle last week.
The Blues’ defence has been fairly settled for the last couple of months and they are really starting to hit their straps as a unit now. It was an outstanding effort to keep the talented Clarence forward line to just seven goals for the game on Saturday. Stewart Williams gained the plaudits for his excellent defensive display while also gathering 15 disposals, while Ryan Tyrrell (17 disposals), Jack Donnellan (16 disposals, 5 marks, 5 rebound 50s), and Chris Savage (16 disposals, 5 marks, 4 rebound 50s) all found plenty of it and Simon Vandervelde lead the team with 5 spoils.
Launceston’s midfield got on top, with the usual suspects leading the way. Jake Hinds continues to put his name up in lights and had 22 disposals, 10 contested, 7 marks, and 7 inside 50s. Jay Blackberry had 21 disposals, 14 contested, 7 tackles, 7 clearances, and a goal, Brodie Palfreyman also had 21 disposals, plus 6 marks, and 4 clearances, while they were well supplied by Hamish Leedham who won a second consecutive high profile ruck battle, this time against Sam Siggins, with 11 disposals, 37 hit outs and 5 inside 50s. Others such as Brendan Taylor (17 disposals, 10 contested, 4 inside 50s) and Tom Sheppard (17 disposals, 10 contested) also played well in what was a very even performance for the Blues.
Up forward a resurgent Nathan O’Donoghue lead the way, kicking three goals and providing a dangerous target all day. Sam Lonergan kicked two goals to go with his 18 disposals, while Joe Boyce was Launceston’s other multiple goal kicker, also with two. While Sonny Whiting and Rulla Kelly-Mansell both made good, hard-working contributions further up the ground, the Blues will have been satisfied to have been able to have kicked a winning score in a final with one goal each from their two leading goal kickers, a duo that has combined for nearly 40% of their goals this season.
Next up will be a third consecutive trip down the highway to Blundstone Arena, this time to take on Lauderdale who will be keen to bounce back after a 94 point trouncing at the hands of North Launceston in the other semi final. The Blues and the Southern Bombers have split their two meeting this season, with each winning in the other’s backyard. The most recent encounter was in round 13 when Lauderdale triumphed by 27 points at Windsor Park.
Launceston goals: O’Donoghue 3, Boyce 2, Lonergan 2, Blackberry, Nunn, Whiting, Kelly-Mansell, Rundle, Gillow
Launceston best: Williams, O’Donoghue, Hinds, Palfreyman, Blackberry, Whiting
Mercury Cup Report
Launceston’s Mercury Cup side have booked their place in the grand final despite having what should’ve been a home qualifying final moved to Clarence’s home ground, coming away 23 point winners over the Roos at Blundstone Arena. After going in level at quarter time, the Blues kicked six goals to two against the inaccurate Clarence, to give themselves a winning lead before managing to hold them off in an even and at times tense final quarter.
Experienced campaigners Cam Downie and Jordan Harris were important on the day for the Blues, both gathering plenty of the ball and leading the team well with their senior level finals experience to call on. Harris kicked three goals to lead the team in that area along with Zach Griffiths, who also kicked three. Griffiths clearly enjoys taking on Clarence at Blundstone Arena, having kicked three goals the last time the two sides met there in round 14 as well. Ben Killalea was Launceston’s other multiple goal kicker with two including an exciting sealer where he burst out of the middle and took several bounces before finishing with aplomb.
Other Blues to make an impact included Lachie Gee and the ever consistent Grant Holt who showed that their tough contested style is made for finals football. Tim Auckland dominated in the ruck, took some important contested marks and slotted a goal, and Tyson Miller is really starting to come into his own on the wing and enjoyed one of his best games since his switch there. But as with the seniors there were solid contributions across the board for the Blues.
As mentioned previously, that result puts Launceston straight through to the grand final in two weeks time, where they will take on the winner of the preliminary final between Tigers and Clarence, with the top three on the ladder during the home and away season proving themselves to be clearly the best three sides in the Mercury Cup this year.
Launceston will be hoping for a team in all three grand finals at UTAS Stadium on Saturday the 23rd of September, with the Mercury Cup and TSLW sides both already through to the decider, and the TSL seniors playing in the preliminary final next week. The day will start with the Mercury Cup grand final at the unusual time of 10:10am.
Launceston goals: Griffiths 3, Harris 3, Killalea 2, Oldenhof, Bott, Cooper, Auckland
Launceston best: Downie, Harris, Killalea, Oldenhof, Holt, Gee