Thriller ends winning streak for Lions
Defending premiers North Albany withstood a spirited challenge from Royals in the final quarter to secure a much-needed win, downing the previously unbeaten Lions by eight points in a thrilling contest at Centennial Stadium on Sunday.
Played in slippery, cold conditions, the first half was a real scrap but four goals to livewire forward Sam Baddeley-Holmes had the Lions ahead by 12 points at the main break.
The Kangas lifted in the third term as they kicked five goals to one, including the last three majors heading into three-quarter time, as momentum shifted in favour of the visitors.
Jake Becroft was highly influential, kicking two goals, while Tom Bigwood flew under the radar to add two of his own, as the Kangas charged 16 points ahead.
The Lions were favoured by the breeze in the final quarter and Baddeley-Holmes missed two early shots on goal — one from close range on the run — before the Kangas swept the ball to the other end where captain Graham Ross booted one from the goal square to extend the margin to 20 points.
The home side again rallied though as they kicked the next three goals, with young gun Tom Baldwin’s second of the match getting his side within a point.
Jesse Wynne steadied at the other end for the Kangas but their seven-point lead was short-lived when Baddeley-Holmes freakishly soccered his fifth goal off the ground.
Star duo Matt Orzel and Jack McPhee continued to win the ball around the middle of the ground and Michael Martain calmly slotted a set shot late in the piece as the Kangas hung on, 11.12 (78) to 10.10 (70).
As part of Belt Up Round, McPhee was awarded the match day ball by the umpires for his superb performance at half-back and through the midfield, while the experience of Orzel shone through in the tough conditions, as he won a stack of clearances in the second half.
Becroft (three goals) was also a strong contributor, along with defender Alec Haskins, but the only concern for the Kangas was a bad concussion to teenager Taj Williams.
Williams landed heavily after a sling tackle from Royals’ Aaron Gliosca in the first term, and Gliosca was reported by umpire Ryan Tindale.
Kangas coach Craig Dew said the second-half turnaround was pleasing, as they celebrated Michael Wright’s 200th GSFL game and Adam Ditchburn’s 100th league game.
“That is one against the grain, I think,” Dew said. “We really needed to win, otherwise we head into Railways 2-3. Our run and carry into the breeze was great and putting Jack McPhee back in the last was also crucial. Give credit to the guys who came into the side, some of these guys are maybe not in our best 22 but will be hard to squeeze out so that’s pleasing.”
Baddeley-Holmes was a constant threat in attack for the Lions, taking five marks inside 50 and finishing with 5.2, while Rhys Jones, Baldwin and Ben Watson were also solid in their first loss of the season. Lions coach James McRae said it was a frustrating afternoon.
“We didn’t take our opportunities and the whole day didn’t play the way we wanted to,” he said.
“Their run got on top of us and their main men McPhee and Orzel really stepped up. Our ball movement was horrendous and we didn’t want to run and spread.
“We needed to lose and the boys need to be dirty about it.”
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