TIGERS have qualified for the AFL Mount Isa grand final in dramatic fashion, after holding off big-game specialists Rovers.
After trailing for most of the match, Tigers hit the front in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter at Legend Oval on Saturday.
Tigers’ three-goal hero Bernard Crawford kicked the last-gasp goal to seal the 10.7.67 – 9.7.61 victory.
Tigers coach Craig Brice admitted his side did it the hard way, showing grit and determination to pull off the result.
“Our intensity wasn’t where it needed to be in the first half, and Rovers took full advantage of that,” Brice said.
“But I reminded the players how much hard work and effort they have put in to get here, not to let this opportunity slip away.”
Rovers had all the early running in the match, which led to Nicklaus Becker kicking the first two goals of the game, after strong lead-up play by Steven Andrews.
It took until mid-way through the second quarter, when down by 19 points, for the Tigers to work themselves into the match.
“We knew Rovers would come out hard, but their overall pressure was relentless and I think our boys took a while to adjust to that,” Brice said.
“Credit has to go to Jamie for putting probably his strongest side on the field all year.”
Two quick goals to Tigers reduced Rovers’ lead to just one goal, before Blain McCormack and Scott Amor kicked two goals in quick succession to push the lead back over three goals.
Rovers used their 14-point advantage at the break to push further forward through Brendan Parker, but the Tigers were again up to the challenge.
Tigers slotted two quick majors through Karl Eussen and Brian Menz before losing key midfielder Jarryd Harrison to a broken arm at the end of the third.
“Losing Jarryd at the end of the third quarter was a bad blow for the side, but they used it as motivation to win,” Brice said.
“Jarryd addressed the boys in the final break, and all the boys could see how much the match meant to him.
“All the boys were inspired by Jarryd, who had realised that his season was over.”
Only two points separated the two sides at the final change, and Rovers extended their lead to seven points thanks to Simon Pope, before key defender Jackson White was sin-binned for rough conduct.
This moment proved pivotal as Tigers kicked a goal off the resulting penalty and hit the lead for the first time only moments later.
Mitchell Godfrey extended the lead for Tigers to seven points before Becker quickly slotted one against the run of play, to set up a grandstand finish.
With only seconds remaining, an ominous kick was sent into the Tigers’ attacking 50 metre, with scores tied at 61-all.
Tigers ruckman Jason Boydle tapped the ball smartly down to Crawford, who kicked the winning goal from 25 metres out just seconds before the final siren.
Rovers’ coach Jamie McPherson said he was proud of the effort his boys showed, considering how his team had faired against the Tigers recently with triple-figure losses.
“We knew we had to start the match hard, try and kick the first goal or two and rattle the Tigers,” he said.
“Luckily for us, we were able to kick three of the first four goals, which set the tone of the match early.”
But McPherson acknowledged the early intensity probably led to his side running out of legs in the final quarter.
“Our boys were absolutely exhausted in the final quarter, after pushing hard for the entire match,” he said.
“Losing Jackson to the sin bin hurt us, because he is such a key member of our defensive unit.
“If we didn’t lose him, and a couple of other things went our way, the result might have been different.”
Tigers will now face Lake Nash Young Guns – who have won eight games in a row – in the grand final next Saturday.
LEADING ROVER: Michael Dombroski was again one of the Rovers’ best.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.