Lions withstand Sharks strong fightback
Royals survived a third-quarter blitz from Albany to register their sixth win of the season in difficult conditions at Centennial Stadium on Sunday and remain inside the top four of the Great Southern Football League competition.
After a dour opening half, where the Lions stretched their margin to beyond 30 points, a spirited Sharks side fought back as their young brigade took hold of the game in the third quarter.
The Sharks kicked six goals to one in the third term, as they reduced the deficit to just three points by the final change with young pair Kieran Gowdie and Brock Anning central to their side storming back into the round 12 contest.
Gowdie booted three goals in the third term, causing real problems in the air and on the ground while Anning’s pace and evasiveness around half-forward helped him snare two goals.
The Sharks’ hopes of a second-ever league win grew even more when Gowdie took a towering pack mark and booted his fifth inside the first couple of minutes to hand his side the lead for the first time.
Knowing the enormity of the result for their finals hopes, the Lions found a way to hit back as they began to win clearances through Corey Ward, Henry Hodge and Cameron Allison.
The Lions responded to Gowdie’s fifth by kicking the next four goals to snuff out any chance of an upset, with Ward capping a superb game by adding two classy final- term majors as his side won by 16 points.
Hodge, Allison and ruckman Jaike Dale were all vital contributors for the Lions as they prevailed 12.9 (81) to 10.5 (65), with four goals in the fourth quarter enough to hold the Sharks at bay and stay a game clear in fourth position.
The Lions were again missing a number of first-choice players and coach James McRae said the pressure was on to keep winning.
“Winning today’s game is not a given,” he said. “We just have lapses in games, which hurts.
“They got on top and were playing with a fair bit of passion and we just didn’t respond. With Denmark winning, we have to keep winning.”
It was the eighth loss under 30 points for the Sharks this season and their third consecutive defeat by less than four goals.
Gowdie was superb up forward, to finish with 5.1 while while Anning, Michael Simpson and Jonas Mitchell were also among the Sharks’ best players.
Acting coach Scott Sedgwick lamented another poor quarter.
“The second quarter let us down, there is always one quarter that does,” he said.
“They had a lot to play for, like finals, but our guys to respond like that in the second half, I applaud them for that.”
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