Bulls overcome gallant Tigers to advance
Mt Barker withstood a spirited final-quarter challenge from Railways to progress to the Great Southern Football League preliminary final, winning a thrilling sudden-death first semifinal by 18 points at Centennial Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Bulls led for the majority of the contest but the Tigers rallied at three-quarter-time despite being down to 20 fit players and kicked four successive goals in the final term to hit the front for the first time.
Trailing by 23 points at the last break, the Tigers threw defender Tayler Neale forward, a move which had immediate impact as he snapped their first goal of the last term and then set up Zak Hortin soon after.
Neale intercepted a handball as he put his second through to make it a five-point margin and the Tigers amazingly had surged into the lead when a strong contested mark and set shot led to Hortin’s third goal of the match.
But the Bulls responded as veteran Ryan Ballard put them back in front and then a freak boundary snap from returning forward Daniel Parker and Nic Chidgzey’s third major of the game got them across the line, 12.10 (82) to 10.4 (64).
Youngster Russell Wynne was superb on the wing, providing constant drive into attack, captain Sam Lehmann was influential at half- back while Chidgzey and Kym Monteath combined for six of their side’s 12 goals.
The Bulls, who did not risk rushing Tyron Miller back from a hamstring injury, kicked four unanswered goals in the first term to set up their triumph and will likely regain Miller, Corey Byrne and Brenton Edwards for the preliminary final.
After some nervy moments in the final term, Bulls coach Shane Thompson said he was relieved to be into a preliminary final.
“We had control for the most part but they just got momentum in the last, which can be hard to stop,” Thompson said. “To their credit, they kicked straight and kept themselves in the game. I thought we might have panicked when we got behind, but in the end I was happy with the win.
“We wanted to get to a prelim and see what happens from there.”
Thompson paid credit to Tigers star Zane Marwick, who was superb in the loss and willed his side back into the contest with 14 disposals and two goals in the third term.
“Zane Marwick — that was one of the best individual performances I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“He is just a running machine.
“We had a hard tag on him the whole day.”
Marwick’s performance was all class as the Kleemann Medal favourite racked up 37 possessions and nine marks to go with his two goals.
The Tigers lost wingman Jarrod Whittle to a badly broken ankle in the second term while defender Jack Hastie (hip) played no part in the game after half-time.
Skipper Bodhi Stubber was superb in defence for the Tigers, Matt Van Schayk and Nic Cramer were terrific in the midfield and Jordyn Pietrala played his best senior game.
The Tigers lost the inside 50 count 33-45 and the defeat soured key defender Kris Cramer’s 150th league game, but player-coach Craig Frost said he was proud of his side’s ability to fight back.
“With about seven minutes to go, we just ran out of legs,” Frost said. “They had Parker and a few other ins but I thought our effort was exceptional given the young and inexperienced players we had.
“It’s disappointing to drop out like that but I think the top four was a lot closer than the ladder showed. In the end, we are three goals from a preliminary final, which is not much.”
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