Lions roar in tough round

The eighth round of the 2022 Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association Senior Men’s Premiership Cup was one to remember with a couple of classics played on Sunday.

The highest profile clash took place at Webb Street where last year’s grand final adversaries met and Apollo was forced to wonder how another potential win slipped away.

As in previous clashes against the other big three clubs, the blue and white enjoyed another blazing start.

The intensity around the pitch was fierce with players attacking the ball at full steam highlighted by Htoo Wah and Christian Fleetwood, who did not flinch when coming together mid pitch.

Despite both teams giving it their all, Apollo managed to find their best first and were able to put Lions’ goal keeper Alex Hill under immense pressure firing a number of close shots at goal.

He was able to hold strong for the most part and resist the onslaught, but if felt like a matter of time before the dam wall would be busted.

After 24 minutes of trying, Apollo broke through to the delight of the home crowd thanks to Say Wah, who outran Jensen Childs on the outside of the box and nailed the ball into the back of the net with a bullet from his left boot.

The onslaught continued for the remainder of the half with the ball locked in Apollo’s attacking third with the likes of Say Wah, Htoo Wah, Hayden Cutting and Jack Donehue pressing hard.

But as the break approached, it was Thomas Inglis, who doubled the team’s lead with his long-range strike leaving even himself perplexed during the celebrations.

It allowed Apollo to cruise into the break full of confidence hoping to finish the job in the second half, while the orange army had to regroup being down at half time for the first time in their premiership defence.

However, not for the first time this year the blue and white allowed their opponents back in the game.

The Lions did not enjoy being tamed in the first half and came out from the break a different beast with shades of their best.

Not only did Centrals level the scoreboard in the blink of an eye, they roared into the lead with a devastating 10-minute passage of play.

Captain Jake Blackwell and coach Brodey Koop led the way and were supported by Cam Saint and Sam Shoemark, who also found the back of the net.

Suddenly 4-2 down, Apollo rallied and went on the attack which allowed Htoo Wah to score the goal which brought the game back to life again.

With only one kick in it, the battle was fierce in the final minutes, but thanks to some big defensive efforts by James Davey, Centrals held on.

Koop said the key was his team’s ability to stay mentally strong under pressure.

“We knew we would be in for a fight against a fired-up Apollo and to their credit their credit they settled in a lot quicker and took advantage of it,” he said.

“We still kept it calm at half time knowing our best is good enough to turn the result around and the boys’ response was first class, scoring three goals within the first 10 minutes.

“Apollo pushed hard to try and bring it back but our backline and mids fought hard.

“James Davey was huge for us in a well contested game.”

Another high-scoring encounter decided by just a single goal took place up the road in Naracoorte where Blue Lake was in town.

With the all-important fourth spot on the ladder the prize, both teams were committed for glory and the yellow and black made the first move.

But Rangers’ captain Jacob Phillips stood tall when his teammates needed him and returned serve almost instantly to ensure nothing split the sides at the main break.

Despite Blue Lake giving its best shot of making the road trip a successful one, its hopes were dashed by the boot of one man, Augustine Halumwane.

Halumwane was a dominant force striking a hat-trick which overwhelmed the Rangers and ensured Naracoorte walked away with a narrow win and fourth position on the ladder.

There were no such nerves experienced at McLaughlin Park where International bossed Millicent.

Matt Bueti had the time of his life scoring four more goals as the black and blue dominated from start to finish.

Inter finished with a flourish scoring three goals in the final five minutes to win 9-0.

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