Lions claw back in final term to break Magpies’ hearts
Denmark-Walpole’s season came to a heartbreaking end on Saturday after being overhauled by Royals in a thrilling final term.
Despite leading for the majority of the round-nine contest played in greasy conditions at Centennial Stadium, the Magpies fell short by three points.
Needing a win to keep their finals hopes alive, the Magpies played like a team possessed as they booted the only three goals of the opening term and converted one of their four inside-50 entries in the second quarter to hold a 12-point advantage at the long break.
The Lions responded with three goals in the third term but two classy finishes from Kleemann Medal fancy Ryan Gaerth ensured the Magpies kept their noses in front going into the final stanza.
The Magpies led by three points when the last quarter began and what transpired resembled a finals-like match as the two sides traded goals.
There were seven lead changes in an epic fourth term as Harry Broomhall gave the home side the advantage back, only for Paris Ropiha to reply at the other end.
Sam Baddeley-Holmes, who had been well held for much of the day, booted his second to put the Lions up but a miraculous snap from Magpies youngster Tom Candy dribbled in soon after as the visitors went three points ahead again.
Jaxon Nottle helped the Lions hit the front with a long-range snap but the Magpies, playing far better than a side that has won just one game, kept responding and a clutch set shot from Paris Ropiha had them up by two points.
The Lions continued to pump the ball inside their forward 50 and they were rewarded, but not through goals as three consecutive points, including two behinds to the returning Michael McGlade, gave the home side the lead with seven minutes to play.
A point to Ryan Kinnear doubled the Lions buffer and the Magpies tried desperately to get the ball to the opposite end. But the Lions were able to clog play up on the scoreboard wing, making it tough to go forward in the strong breeze pushing across the ground.
Cent Amores kicked a late behind but it was enough to hold the gallant Magpies at bay as the Lions pinched an unlikely victory, 8.17 (65) to 9.8 (62).
The loss leaves the Magpies with one win to their name from nine games and now five games plus percentage behind the top four with six games left in the regular season.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Magpies after being in front almost all day and kicking nine goals from just 31 inside 50 entries.
Gaerth was superb in the middle of the ground in a best-afield display for the losing side, while Brody Hickey shone in defence and Paris Ropiha finished with three majors. Magpies coach Matt Candy said his players were gutted with the result but conceded it was their best performance of a disappointing season.
“We did everything right and should have won,” he said. “The boys are devastated especially in Simmo’s (Barker) 100th game.
“We didn’t fall over the line and they did but I thought our pressure on their ball carriers was great.”
The loss was soured by a yellow card and report to returning vice-captain Luke Hutcheson for a dangerous tackle on Lions’ Corey Draper in the second term. Hutcheson took a one-match ban offered by the umpires for rough conduct.
The Lions had 42 inside 50s, including 14 in the final term, but the result gives them breathing space at the top of the ladder.
Michael McGlade was terrific coming back from injury in the win while midfielders Henry Hodge, Dave Parker and Corey Ward were all influential. Lions coach James McRae said his side came out flat after the two-week break.
“It was the ugliest footy we’ve played in a long time,” McRae said.
“But to be successful winning pretty is not the best and we just had to get the four points. Denmark had to win and they were always going to come out hard.”
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