Tigers advance to final
GRAFTON Tigers are through to the North Coast AFL grand final for the second consecutive year after a 12.11 (83) to 9.3 (57) win over Port Macquarie Magpies at Coffs Harbour on Saturday.
Port Macquarie beat the Tigers a fortnight ago, after the Tigers had the wood on the Magpies in the previous two games this year and the match at BCU Stadium on Saturday was expected to be a hard-fought affair.
That proved the case with the reigning premiers only able to kick clear late in the match, the 26-point final margin the biggest gap of the day.
The signs looked ominous for the Magpies early, with the Tigers bolting from the blocks lead 25-6 midway through the first quarter after two goals from Sam Morrison and a goal each to Evan Duryea and Luke Hayman.
The Magpies managed to claw their way back with late goals from Jesse Schmidt and Matt Lil after Tigers duo Lee Anderson and Adi Campbell were sent from the field for striking in separate incidents.
At the end of the first term, the Tigers held a slender six-point advantage.
When play resumed in the second term the Magpies went straight on the attack with a goal to Matt Lil in the opening seconds and only the determined Tigers defence stopped the Magpies charge.
Ben Holder, Kelly Thompson and Ryan Sheather worked hard to shut down repeated attacks from the Magpies forwards.
Momentum eventually swung back to the Tigers but they were unable to capitalise with seven behinds recorded for the quarter.
Lee Anderson, Evan Duryea, Dan Zacek and Carl Boehme all missed set shots as Magpies trailed by just six points at the main break.
Both sides were strong in defence at the start of the third quarter and it wasn't until midway through the third term that the Magpies broke through with a goal to Michael Kemp.
The Tigers hit straight back with a goal of their own from Zacek to keep them just in front.
Rod Newman and Anderson added a further two goals to extend the lead but the Magpies again replied with two goals from Damon Munt.
A goal from Carl Boehme on the siren allowed Tigers to extend their lead to 12 with a quarter remaining.
The Magpies came out firing at the start of the final term with a quick goal to Stewart Todd followed by a behind to have them within striking range.
With the match hanging in the balance the Tigers' fitness started to tell and Sean Duroux, Ronald Davis and Josh Lollback got the upper hand on their midfield opponents, allowing Zacek to goal and open up an 11-point gap with 10 minutes remaining.
The Magpies scored through Stewart Todd against the momentum but when Zacek slotted another, followed by goals to Anderson and Luke Hayman, the Tigers were in command.The Tigers will now enjoy a two-week turnaround while the Magpies will take on the Sawtell Saints in the elimination final on Saturday.
The winner of that match will meet the Tigers in the grand final on September 1.
Port Macquarie Magpies
Goalkickers, Grafton: D. Zacek 3, L. Hayman 2, L. Anderson 2, S. Morrison 2, C. Boehme, R. Newman , E. Duryea. Port Macquarie: D. Munt 2, S. Todd 2, M. Kemp, J. Schmidt, G. Dean, B. Dunlop, M. Lill