LAUNCESTON defied its underdog status to record a courageous 18-point win over the Western Storm in a hard-fought State League contest at Aurora Stadium yesterday.
Both sides applied strong tackling pressure in a low-scoring arm-wrestle in the first half but skill errors made for a scrappy and low-standard contest with just seven goals kicked until half-time - five to the Blues and two to the Storm - the Blues leading by 17 points at the main break.
The game opened up more in the second half as the Storm pressed hard and got on top at the clearances and stoppages.
Two goals to Bart McCulloch and one to Zane Brown got them to within four points midway through the third term but Corey Sheppard and captain Brennan Savage both booted late goals to maintain an important 17-point buffer for the Blues heading into the final term.
The Storm continued to come hard in a desperate final quarter and had most of the play inside their forward half but failed to make the most of opportunities in front of goal kicking seven behinds for the quarter, with inaccuracy proving costly.
Goals to Shaun Collis and Tim Jones cut the margin to eight points mid-way through the final quarter and the Storm was still in with a sniff of victory.
But Blues co-captain Joe Boyce booted two vital majors in the dying minutes as a young Launceston side weathered the storm to grab a gutsy 11.10 (76) to 7.16 (58) win.
Savage, Boyce, Jake Rice and Sheppard all finished with two goals each for the Blues while Brown, Collis and McCulloch booted two apiece for the Storm.
Launceston coach Scott Stephens was proud of his side efforts after the game.
``I have full faith in our boys that they can compete and we certainly showed at times today that we can play really well - but other times we were not quite up to the level required,'' Launceston coach Scott Stephens said.
``That comes down to a bit of inexperience and concentration but that will come with a few more games and situations like that.''
Stephens praised his team's spirit and ability to keep fighting and digging hard as the Storm threw everything at them and threatened to run away with the game in the second half.
``In the last quarter they looked like they had the majority of the play in their forward half but at crucial times our leaders stepped up and provided that spark or scoring opportunity to keep the buffer and put it beyond reach,'' he said.
Western Storm coach Mitch Hills was disappointed by his side's performance.
``I thought we dominated in the second half especially in the midfield,'' he said.
``We had a few key areas we were poor in during the first half once again and we addressed those but we lacked polish going into the forward line and in finishing off in front of goals.''
Joe Groenewegen put in a lion-hearted performance in the ruck against Mitch Hills and McCulloch to be one of the Blues' best, Gary Shipton was strong in defence with Scott Stephens, Savage and Sheppard other good players.
Tim Jones, Thane Bardenhagen, McCulloch, Brown and Collis were the Storm's best.
LAUNCESTON 11.10 (76)
WESTERN STORM 7.16 (58)