PHOTO: Nathan William Media/NFNL

Lower Plenty has taken an enormous step towards survival in the Northern Football Netball League’s Division 2 after a 33-point victory over Epping at Epping Recreation Reserve.

The Blues led by six points at halftime before the Bears took control of the contest in the second half, kicking nine goals to three to prevail 13.7 (85) to 8.4 (52).

With their second win of the season, Lower Plenty is now a game and percentage clear of Epping in ninth place, and with two matches to go in the home and away campaign, they are in the box seat to retain their place in the competition in 2024.

As he has for many games this season, Patrick Flynn’s influence was enormous. Whether it was pumping the ball forward in the ruck, finding the big sticks up forward or filling the hole in the backline, Flynn had a massive say in the contest and was a big reason for the Bears’ win.

Co-captain Joshua Turner was impressive in the middle and was able to win clearances consistently, while Tyler Wallace was busy around stoppages.

The Bears had four multiple goalkickers, with Liam Riley and Billy Barden combining for five majors each.

Epping’s best efforts were led by skipper Leigh Judd, who like Flynn, did everything possible to be involved in his side’s thrusts forward.

He spent time all around the ground, with his two goals in the second term one of his multiple highlights for the afternoon.

Another highlight was young Archer Bugden, who kicked three majors in his second senior game, two of those being excellent finishes in the second quarter.

Lucas Aquillina and Thomas Muscat had solid moments throughout but weren’t able to have major impacts in a second half that was dominated by Lower Plenty.

It was the Bears who got things going early in the match, as the returning Billy Barden kicked the first major of the afternoon.

Phil Plunkett’s men continued to win territory throughout the first term and kept the ball locked inside their attacking half.

Those efforts were rewarded heading into time on when Liam Riley and Matthew Munson booted back-to-back goals to bring the margin out to 19 points.

Epping’s only response to their slow start came through debutant Alo Tiatia, who managed to find the big sticks with a nice finish. It sparked a full team celebration and potential momentum shift as the hosts trailed by 12 points at quarter time.

It proved to do just that, as the Blues came out firing in the second quarter with a brilliant goal from Bugden which reduced the deficit before Lower Plenty responded immediately thanks to Jasper Collins.

From that point until halftime, it was all Epping.

Leigh Judd, who had kicked six goals in the previous three weeks, found consecutive majors to tie the scores before another excellent major from Bugden had the Blues humming as they took a six-point lead into the main break.

The Bears struggled to get their hands on the football and couldn’t replicate the first-term efforts that saw them maintain possession inside their attacking half.

But after Joel Leslie was able to kick the opening goal of the third term within 45 seconds, Lower Plenty looked like a completely different side.

Flynn was at his very best during the quarter, either gaining meterage with his hit-outs or palming it down to his midfielders with precision, constantly putting the Epping defenders on the backfoot with their quick ball movement.

Along with Collins, Barden, and Lucas Cronin, Flynn also got on the scoreboard during a period that saw the visitors kick five unanswered goals to suddenly go into the final break 25 points to the good.

Epping’s competitive juices started to flow early in the final term, as veteran Luke Lirosi snapped through a goal four minutes in to try and spark a comeback for his side.

But while the Blues managed to match the Bears efforts at times in the last quarter, they couldn’t apply any scoreboard pressure, losing the term by nine points and ultimately losing the match by 33 points, ending what was a terrific performance by Lower Plenty.

EPPING: 1.1 5.2 5.4 8.4 (52)
GOALS: A. Bugden 3, L. Judd 2, J. Conway, A. Tiatia, L. Lirosi.
BEST: L. Aquilina, L. Judd, L. Lirosi, T. Muscat, M. Jacobson, K. Burns.

LOWER PLENTY: 3.1 4.2 9.4 13.7 (85)
GOALS: L. Riley 3, W. Barden 2, P. Flynn 2, J. Collins 2, M. Munson, J. Coutts, J. Leslie, L. Cronin.
BEST: J. Turner, P. Flynn, T. Wallace, L. Naismith, J. Smith, M. Munson.

Why wait ’till Wednesday for outdated newspapers?
First for local footy

SOURCENorthern Football Netball League
Previous articleFitzroy Stars defeat Reservoir by 91 at Crispe Park
Next articleMoir’s View …