Roy­als’ per­fect re­sponse

Albany Advertiser - - SPORT - Cameron New­bold

Roy­als se­cured their place in next Sun­day’s Great South­ern Foot­ball League grand fi­nal af­ter kick­ing four goals in the last term to record a 23-point win over Mt Barker in a high-scor­ing and en­thralling pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal at Cen­ten­nial Sta­dium on Sun­day. The Lions, em­bar­rassed by North Al­bany in the sec­ond semi­fi­nal a week ago, re­sponded in per­fect fash­ion as they kicked six first quar­ter goals to set up the 17.8 (110) to 13.9 (87) vic­tory and ab­sorbed plenty of pres­sure in the sec­ond half to progress to their sec­ond de­cider in three years.

Lead­ing by 13 points at the fi­nal change, the Lions were im­me­di­ately chal­lenged in the fourth quar­ter when Bulls young­ster Joel Gray snapped truly be­fore re­turn­ing Lions for­ward Peter Mark gave his side a di­rect re­ply at the other end.

The mar­gin was back to sin­gle fig­ures for the sec­ond time in the fi­nal term when vet­eran Ryan Bal­lard put his sec­ond ma­jor through and then two re­sult­ing points pulled the deficit back to four points.

How­ever with the game on the line, the Lions kept com­ing as Mark stepped up to bag his sec­ond goal of the quar­ter that ex­tended their lead to 10 points in­side the fi­nal three min­utes.

Play­ing just his fifth league game of the sea­son and his first since round 9, Lions util­ity Cam Smith booted a fifth ma­jorj ma­jor and then hard­work­ing mid­fielder Ty­ron Small­wood put the re­sult be­yond doubt.

Smith fin­ished with five ma­jors in a sen­sa­tional re­turn, Mark was a telling pres­ence all af­ter­noon on his

come­back from a ham­string in­jury and booted 4.4, while Small­wood’s work in the mid­field was su­perb to go with three goals in a best-afield dis­play.

Lions coach James McRae said it was a fi­nals vic­tory full of char­ac­ter.

“I’m as proud as punch and I’m rapt with the way they re­sponded,” McRae said.

“Dave Parker and Sam Bad­de­ley-Holmes both not play­ing with in­jury and los­ing Tay­lor Pow­ell to in­jury early, it was a true test of char­ac­ter and the boys re­sponded.

“That’s the best footy we’ve played since round 3.”

Pow­ell is the only con­cern from the Lions vic­tory.

He in­jured his right shoul­der in the first quar­ter and af­ter some treat­ment re­turned to play as a deep for­ward.

But McRae was con­fi­dent the low-grade AC shoul­der in­jury wouldn’t pre­vent Pow­ell from run­ning out in the grand fi­nal.

Ben Gray pro­vided great dash off half-back for the Lions to go with strong con­tri­bu­tions from Ryan Flick and Michael McGlade, who was ter­rific at the stop­pages and kicked two goals.

The Bulls trailed at ev­ery change and lost the in­side 50 count 46-48 but star for­ward Kym Monteath’s six goals to three-quar­ter-time had the vis­i­tors in the game.

Monteath, op­posed to Rory Cal­laghan, had three ma­jors at half-time and then set the game alight with a cou­ple of bril­liant ef­forts.

He snared an­other three ma­jors to help the Bulls cut the mar­gin back to 13 points.

De­spite 10 in­side 50s in the fi­nal term the Bulls were out on their feet with Daniel Dably, Sam Lehmann and a proppy Ty­ron Miller strug­gling with in­jury late in the game.

Rus­sell Wynne was again out­stand­ing for the Bulls while Gray, David Stone and Nic Chidgzey (two goals) were also im­por­tant at stages.

Bulls coach Shane Thomp­son lamented his sides first term.

“Their first quar­ter was the dif­fer­ence, we were al­ways chas­ing af­ter that and could never get in front,” he said.

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

Roy­als' Hamish McMor­ran looks to break clear against Mt Barker.

Pic­tures: Lau­rie Ben­son

Mt Barker's Rus­sell Wynne gath­ers the ball on the run.

Roy­als' Henry Hodge gath­ers the ball and at­tempts to break through a pack.

Mt Barker's Corey Byrne on the at­tack.

Roy­als' Peter Mark marks.

Sam Lehmann breaks clear.

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