Gutsy three-goal win shakes Roosters — and top five

HAVE you heard the story about the Tigers and the Roosters?

Portland’s Remy Grant grabs possession despite the efforts of South Warrnambool’s Darcy Wilson. Portland won the hard-fought contest by three goals.    140719DW34 Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

Portland’s Remy Grant grabs possession despite the efforts of South Warrnambool’s Darcy Wilson. Portland won the hard-fought contest by three goals.  140719DW34 Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

It follows a similar storyline to the classic children’s tale where the one-speed tortoise prevails in a race against a faster and more flashy opponent, the hare. 

Substitute Portland’s Tigers for the tortoise and South Warrnambool’s Roosters for the hare and you get a picture of Saturday’s enthralling Hampden league showdown at Hanlon Park.

While the Roosters made a fast start and led by as many as nine goals early in the second quarter, Portland’s steadiness going forward and higher conversion rate in the goal circle saw it edge ahead 51-48 by the final buzzer.

The result blew the race for the five open, reigniting sixth-placed Portland’s hopes. But crucially it put South Warrnambool’s grip on fourth under pressure, meaning two spots are up for grabs in the last five weeks of the regular season.

Jennings was delighted with her side’s performance, especially after recovering from the big deficit.

“Really, really pleased,” she said. “Really pleased how we fought it out when they came back at us.”

Jennings, the oldest A grade player, likened her centre role to the steady, slowing influence, while goal defence Donna Fearon-Ciugureanu provided great drive through the midcourt as wing attack Remy Grant became creative.

“We had to win, we knew we had to win, we talked about it on Thursday night. If we wanted to have any chance of playing finals we had to win.” 

The Tigers can go a long way to achieving that goal with a victory against Camperdown on Saturday but will need to start better than against the Roosters.

South, after dominating with slick ball movement and long, precise passes to goalies Nell Mitchell and Leah Kermeen, led by six at quarter-time before extending it to nine early in the second term.

But just before the break, South’s goals started to dry up as Portland produced and capitalised on a series of turnovers, closing to within five goals.

Portland coach Kerri Jennings introduced teenagers Tayla Falconer (goal shooter) and Laura Kelly (goal keeper) at either end of the court at quarter-time and, after an initial adjusting period, their presence started to swing the momentum in favour of their side.

But in a stunning transformation, the Tigers scored eight of the first 10 goals to start the third quarter. 

They opened a two-goal buffer several times before the Roosters levelled. But each time the Roosters challenged, the Tigers responded and at the last change they led 39-37.

Portland was first to hit the scoreboard in the final term and had all the momentum with a three-goal lead but South Warrnambool teenagers Gen and Ally O’Connor came up with some telling intercepts as the Roosters regained the lead with eight minutes remaining. 

Portland responded and brought the advantage back to two, then the Roosters levelled again with four minutes remaining. 

A minute later the Roosters were up by one but league best and fairest-winning goalie Lauren Hockley produced some ice-cool shooting to give Portland back the lead.

In a dramatic final three minutes, the Tigers scored 5-2, four of them to Hockley, to seal the result.

Roosters coach Leah Kermeen said the result was disappointing for her side after an impressive start.

“It’s never over,” she said.

“I felt their changes (Falconer and Kelly) were the difference. The goal shooter and goal keeper play a different style game and it took us a long time to adjust to that.”

Kermeen tried a series of her own moves in the third and final terms.

“Every game from now on is crucial. Now we want it that bit more. We are just taking it a week at a time. There is no point stressing.”

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