Hamilton Kangaroos chase top-three spot after defeating Portland

Hamilton‘s Renae Beks was moved to centre during the second half of the game against arch-rival Portland. Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

Hamilton‘s Renae Beks was moved to centre during the second half of the game against arch-rival Portland. Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

IT might sound simple but Hamilton Kangaroos have a challenging goal in the second half of the season.

The big climber of 2014 is chasing continual improvement as it looks to claim a top-three finish and a historic first finals berth in its second Hampden league season.

Coach Sara Byrne is measuring her side’s development on results. 

Simply, any side the Kangaroos lost to in the first half of the season, they need to reduce the margin or win; any side they defeated, they are shooting to win by more.

Saturday’s 14-goal victory over arch-rival Portland at Melville Oval ticked the second box. 

The 42-28 scoreline was an eight-goal better result for the Kangaroos than when the sides met in a scrappy contest on Anzac Day.

“It was more than the last time we played them which was really good,” Byrne said.

“And we didn’t let them come back like we did. It was only four goals last time and they really came back at us hard in the last quarter. We actually increased our lead in the last quarter this time.”

Three games into the second half of the season and Byrne is happy with her side’s progress. It defeated Cobden by 25 goals in round 10, narrowly missing the 28-goal margin in round one and two weeks ago pushed the undefeated Koroit before losing by five goals, 17 goals less than round two.

Byrne said the Kangaroos’ win on Saturday was set up by their defenders.

“Our defensive effort was absolutely fantastic,” she said.

“We picked off so many passes and they had to make a lot of changes in their attacking end.”

The Kangaroos sit in third, two wins clear of fourth-placed South Warrnambool, seemingly assured of a finals double chance.

Byrne experimented in the second half on Saturday, moving star defender Amanda Huf out of her customary goal defence role to wing defence, rested centre Ally Feely, brought teenager Aly Smead off the bench to goal defence and moved wing defence Renae Beks to centre.

Portland coach Kerri Jennings made several moves of her own at half-time. She benched herself despite the advice of support staff.

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” she said.

“I thought Ally Feely was beating me ... maybe I shouldn’t have taken myself off.”

The Kangaroos made a fast start to the match and after fighting back in the second term briefly, Jennings felt her side was “never in it”.

With league best-and-fairest-winning goalie Lauren Hockley struggling under the post because of illness, Jennings was keen to find a spark.

But the Kangaroos defenders of Rhiane Lewis and Huf had the measure of goal shooter Tayla Falconer and Hockley.

Jennings said the Tigers had put together better passages of play on Saturday against the Kangaroos than when they met in round three.

But a lack of scoring hurt.

“To only score four goals in the first quarter was disgraceful,” she said.

“You can’t win games if you are only going to score four goals a quarter. It was our misses. We had eight attempts for four goals. 

“It’s quite frustrating when we do that.”

Hockley, plucked from her sick bed, spent part of the third quarter at wing attack in a desperate bid to find some drive with Laura Tagell moving into goals. But with the deficit at 10 at three-quarter-time, she was rested.

Jennings said the Tigers, which slipped from fifth to sixth on the ladder, had to bounce back with a win against fourth-placed South Warrnambool on Saturday to firm up its finals hopes.

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