Lions looming large after grinding win over Tigers

Gun midfielder Courtney Stephens showed her versatile side in a shut-down role for Pakenham on Saturday. 409831 Picture: EUAN POULTON PHOTOGRAPHY

By David Nagel

Pakenham has set up a mouthwatering top-of-the-table clash with undefeated Healesville this week after the Lions overcame Upwey-Tecoma at Toomuc Reserve on Saturday.

The Lions scored their first-ever home-and-away victory over the Tigers – and made it six straight wins this season – with a gritty and grinding 3.5(23) to 1.3(9) triumph.

Pakenham started the better of the two teams, having the ball predominantly in its front half, but struggled to score against a well-drilled Tigers’ defence.

It took a creative handball from Tianah Vandesteeg to set up Aiesha Kolaritsch for the first goal of the match at the four-minute mark of the first quarter.

The Tigers soon answered through dangerous goal-sneak Jess Occhipinti, before Kolaritsch regained the lead for the Lions just minutes away from quarter time.

Both teams were reduced in numbers this week, making linking up difficult on Pakenham’s large home ground.

Both defences were on top in the second quarter with Emily Devine, Annalise Ryan, Abbey McKenzie and Bec Domotor repelling the Tigers’ advances.

The Lions midfield worked hard to gain ascendency with Bianca Moody, Chloe Nagel, Courtney Stephens and Sarah Ventura doing a stack of work around the ground.

Sarah Connelly and Courtney Karayannis controlled the wings for the Lions in the third quarter, with Kolaritsch kicking her third to open up a handy 13-point lead.

In a grinding game, both teams were battling for oxygen in the final term as the Lions held on for victory.

Beth Quadara, Aliya Daniel, Tanya Stafford and Emily Johnston applied important pressure for the winners, while sisters Brianna and Rielle Menere both created chances in the final term.

Stephens – in an unfamiliar role – did a great job on Occhipinti in the second half, allowing youngster McKenzie to show her wares through the midfield.

The Lions now have a 6-1 record and welcome Healesville to Toomuc Reserve at 10.45am this Saturday.

Madi Walsh, Dakota Roach and Lauren Cleeman were outstanding contributors for the Tigers.

In other Division One games this week, Casy Wilsmore (3) and Ishka-Belle Stock (2) kicked five goals between them in Healesville’s 68-point victory over Belgrave, while reigning-premier Olinda Ferny Creek scored a 46-point win over Berwick Springs.

Madeleine Collins kicked three, and Martha Box and Olivia Edwards two each for the Bloods, while Tayla Stephens kicked the only six-pointer for the Titans.

In Division Two, Officer came from behind to draw its game with Emerald at Starling Road.

The Kangaroos trailed by 11 points at the final break, but booted 2.1 to 0.2 in the last quarter to tie things away at 31 points each.

Breana Granger kicked two goals for the Roos, who had Lauren Langeveld and Erin Andrews among their best players.

Wandin proved too good for Seville, and Warburton-Wesburn had a comfortable win over Thornton-Eildon, while Monbulk remains undefeated after a tough win over Woori-Yallock.

Scores were locked at three-quarter time before the Hawks scored 2.0 to no score in the final term to walk away with a 12-point victory.