Lions a genuine flag threat

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser

Royals have emerged as a genuine premiership contender after stunning the highly credentialed Mt Barker by 35 points to remain undefeated at their new home ground to begin the 2017 season.

The Lions played their best half of football in two seasons, setting up their convincing victory on the back of relentless pressure and slick transition into attack.

As much as the Lions were brilliant in the first-half blitz, the Bulls were disappointing, finishing with their lowest score in 18 games under coach Shane Thompson.

They were dismantled by a slick Lions outfit who controlled possession and harassed, chased and forced the usually calm Bulls into uncharacteristic errors in the low- scoring affair, 8.14 (62) to 4.3 (27).

While the Bulls only conceded eight goals, the weight of forward entries was enough to have alarm bells ringing, and if not for the rebound of recruit Corey Byrne, the loss would have been heftier.

The Lions played the contest on their terms in the opening half, and despite only kicking two goals in the second half, the Bulls could only muster two themselves in a disappointing showing.

The Lions booted six consecutive behinds in the third term without a major after leading by 28 at the major break, but the same margin at three-quarter-time always seemed out of reach of the Bulls.

The loss of key defender Adam Tissott to a hamstring strain forced a major reshuffle of the magnetic board, resulting in ruckman David Stone moving to fullback on Sam Baddeley-Holmes (four goals) and full forward Daniel Parker into the ruck.

The injury concerns worsened for the Bulls when youngster Rhys Hogg was stretchered from the ground with a broken collarbone, captain Sam Lehmann (ham-string) finished the match on the bench and experienced duo Steven Scott and Nathan Skinner also appeared hampered.

With Kleemann medallist Matt Smith well held by persistent tagger Lochy Jones, Lehmann forced into defence and then from the ground with injury and the absence of Taylor, the Bulls were outpointed in the centre square.

Youngster Ben Watson was superb in his 10th league game across half-back, while ruckman Hamish McMorran showed his continued maturity around the ground.

Bulls coach Thompson conceded his side were soundly beaten.

“It was disappointing but take nothing away from Royals,” he said. “They put a fair bit of work into our players.

“We just weren’t on and it is very hard to wrestle momentum back.

“We were really poor.”

Lions coach James McRae said his side were aware the Bulls would improve as the season progressed.

“Our defensive pressure was able to shut them down, which was probably the most pleasing part,” he said. “We are starting to gel and play the style of footy we want to play ... that is probably the best first half we have played since I have been here.”

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