SOUTH Launceston was forced to dig deep to see off a determined Hillwood challenge as the Bulldogs held on to win their NTFA division 1 clash at Youngtown Oval yesterday by nine points.
The ladder leaders stretched their undefeated run to 12 matches but was made to fight hard for the 12.13 (85) to 11.10 (76) win by a Sharks outfit that took the game right up to the premiership favourites.
Luke McCarty finished with three goals as the Bulldogs' best player at centre half-forward with two each to Darren Crawford, Sam Page and Adam Viney.
Laine Cleaver came back into the side this week and provided a lot of run off half-back, Stephen Heppell did well up forward with Dave Patten, Leigh Harding, Shane Wager and Matthew Viney rounding out the Bulldog's best players.
Tom Bennett kicked five goals as the Shark's best goalkicker with Tom Gibbons finishing with two, the only other multiple scorer.
Jake Pearce was the Shark's best player with Josh Moore good across half-back, Bennett up forward, Mark Harris and Luke Pinner other good performers.
"It was a tough game today - we had a lot of skill errors and Hillwood were working the footy a lot cleaner than we were and their forward entries were a lot cleaner than ours," South Launceston coach Aaron Viney said.
"It wasn't a pretty game because it was a bit sloppy at times but to our boys' credit they kept fighting all day.
"We were down at half-time and I wasn't sure how they would react but they showed a fair bit of character.
"They kept battling through the second half and worked their butts off to get in front and held on in the end."
Viney said the contest ebbed and flowed with a lot of lead changes during the second half.
"It was a different kind of win than the ones we've had in the past few weeks which were 100-point wins and today we were really challenged," he said.
"We knew that Hillwood were playing good footy and we were going to be the hunted today and that's exactly what happened.
"We knew they would come out for a tough fight and we were just lucky enough to hold them off in the end.
"Today was a good challenge which will hold us in good stead and we've got Bridgenorth next week - another top-three team - so our boys will have to continue that into next week."
Viney said the Bulldogs only had three players on the interchange bench in the last quarter after Steven Mayne received a knock to the ribs, but he expected Mayne to be right for next week.