A FIVE-GOAL burst in the second quarter from North Launceston gave it the breathing space it needed to defeat a Western Storm side that showed plenty of fight in last night’s high stakes State League grudge match at Aurora Stadium.
The 15.9 (99) to 11.9 (75) win ensured the Bombers got the finals double chance and sets up a likely rematch between the two sides next weekend, unless a major upset occurs down South and the Tigers defeat Clarence tomorrow, which would see the Storm keep the top spot it seemingly relinquished last night.
The high stakes that were on offer, and the dislike between the two teams was obvious for all to see at half-time, when the siren for the long break also signalled the start of a ‘‘getting to know you session’’.
Either side of this scuffle, which included the traditional throwing of opponents to the ground and the losing of jumpers, the football was befitting of the occasion.
With the likes of Matt Hanson and Mitch Hills for the Storm and Brad Cox-Goodyer for the Bombers hitting the scoreboard in a classy fashion, the first quarter was a joy to watch.
After the Bombers opened up a seven-point (4.3 to 3.2) lead at quarter-time thanks to two late goals, the game developed into a scrap, with the Storm seemingly taking control in general play.
When ruckman Haydn Smith goaled to get a narrow lead, it looked the Storm’s hard work was about to pay off. But in a blink of an eye Cox-Goodyer kicked two more to give him four of his side’s first six and the Bombers were back in control.
Mitch Vandenberg, an exceptionally clever Chris Tarrant using his soccer skills and Zachary Burt all added to the Storm’s pain, and it trailed by 29 at the long break, 9.6 to 4.7.
When Burt kicked the first of the third term, the margin was 34, but the Storm wasn’t about to go quietly.
Hanson showed why he has been attracting AFL attention by kicking a beautiful set-shot goal, one of three Storm goals in a row.
Allan O’Sign snapped truly for the Bombers, but a late Tim Jones major saw the Storm go in to three quarter-time just 16 points down.
This margin was soon 10 when Alex Russell delivered from a free kick, before Burt, Vandenberg, Daniel Roozendaal and then Tarrant from long range ensured there would be no comeback this night.
Even with Tarrant kept to just the two goals by Will Hanson, the Bombers had the more forward options with Cox-Goodyer and Burt (four goals each) and Roozendaal (two) providing constant headaches.
But despite a minimal scoreboard impact, Tarrant was still able to do the little things which only those with AFL experience can.
Coach Zane Littlejohn’s midfield was also key to the result, with the likes of Taylor Whitford and Lochlan Young prominent.
For the Storm, Thane Bardenhagen, Jay Blackberry and Lewis Ritchie all tried hard.
Post-game Littlejohn said his focus had already turned towards next week’s return meeting, and the club’s return to the finals.
‘‘We have to focus on what we can do better next week, because I don’t think we played our best footy out there, so to win was obviously pleasing,’’ he said.
‘‘They were always going to come back at us, and we knew we had to weather that storm and we knew if we did we knew we could win the arm wrestle.’’
Storm boss Hills was disappointed to miss out on the chance of securing top spot, and said things would be ‘‘rejigged’’ next week.
‘‘We had the ball in our forward half for the majority I reckon, but they used the ball better, kicked the ball to advantage better than we did and looked more dangerous forward.
‘‘The positive is we can look at the vision, see where we went wrong and put in a plan for next week when we meet the same opposition.
‘‘We defended well, and our mids fought it out, but our better players weren’t able to stand up tonight.’’
In last night’s other match, Hobart City defeated Glenorchy 10.10 (70) to 8.11 (59).