McCulloch a focal point for Storm

A SEVEN-goal haul to Bart McCulloch helped the Western Storm continue on its winning way with a 39-point victory over Launceston in their State League clash at Windsor Park yesterday.

It was the fifth win in a row for the second-placed Storm and with a game to come next week on the road against the winless Tigers sets the club up for a possible 8-2 record heading into the state game bye in two weeks time and its next Foxtel Cup appearance.

McCulloch relished the opportunity to stay forward for most of the game with Cody Thorp back to do the bulk of the ruck duties and was influential with his height troubling different opponents thrown on to him.

Shaun Collis kicked two goals in the first quarter as the Storm's only other multiple goalkicker.

New Blues recruit Michael Musicka showed his value up forward with three goals despite playing most of the second half hindered by a shoulder AC joint injury.

Jake Rice booted two and provided a target across half-forward at times for his team.

A three or four-goal southerly breeze favoured the Northern end of the ground, the Storm using it well in the opening quarter to kick four goals to two to lead by 14 points at quarter-time.

The Blues failed to make full use of the wind in the second managing only one goal to coach Scott Stephens while the Storm booted three against it including two to McCulloch and one to Matt Hanson.

The Storm was able to bottle play up and win the stoppages with numbers around the footy to prevent the Blues getting free on the outside while at the other end McCulloch and Alex Russell started to break the shackles and win more ball.

The Storm extended its lead to 29 points at half-time and both teams kicked three goals in the third to maintain the buffer at 31 points heading into the final quarter with McCulloch adding another two for the term.

The Storm managed four goals to three in the final quarter, McCulloch kicking the final two of the game to run out winners 14.15 (99) to 9.6 (60).

Western Storm's class through the midfield was a telling factor in the victory with the likes of Jay Blackberry and Matt Hanson able to break tags and be influential ball-winners with good support from Beau Thorp and Thane Bardenhagen and Cody Thorp playing well in the ruck in his first game back.

Launceston could not be faulted on effort but minor defensive lapses and turnovers with skill errors proved costly and the Blues lacked the Storm's polish through the middle.

``It was really patchy and didn't pan out the way we would have liked but coming to their home ground we owed them one for round 1 and were really happy to get the win at least, so a good performance all around,'' Storm coach Mitch Hills said.

``We've been trying not to let opposition score against us in red time and once again in the third and fourth quarter they were able to get late goals so if we can shut down that aspect, and I think it is more a mental thing, then we are going to be hard to beat.''

Stephens said there were positives in his team's performance when players followed instructions but when they went away from that they were exposed.

``I thought their midfield was excellent today and really got on top and that was probably the difference at the end of the day,'' he said.

``They gave their forwards first supply and they worked harder _ hopefully our boys learn from that today so our players understand the hurt from losing a game especially against a hometown rival.

``We seemed to get beaten on the inside and then on the outside in the spread so we will have to analyse that and move forward next week because we have another tough game.''

Jake Smith, Joe Groenewegen, Stephens and Musicka were among the Blues best.

Western Storm's Bart McCulloch tries to break a  tackle from  Launceston's Tom Claridge in yesterday's clash at Windsor Park. Pictures: MARK JESSER

Western Storm's Bart McCulloch tries to break a tackle from Launceston's Tom Claridge in yesterday's clash at Windsor Park. Pictures: MARK JESSER

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