Seasoned Panthers grind out gritty win

Headshot of Justin Fris
Justin FrisSouth Western Times
Brandon Higgins prepares to send the Bulls deep into attack.
Camera IconBrandon Higgins prepares to send the Bulls deep into attack. Credit: Justin Fris

A “red time” goal in the final quarter from Riese Wilkey secured a tense 8.8 (56) to 8.6 (54) victory for Carey Park over a devastated Harvey Bulls on Saturday night at Kelly Park.

The win ensured that Richard Barnard’s men remained in the top five, although they were forced to work their socks off for the privilege.

Despite little scoreboard reward to show for their efforts in recent weeks, the Bulls started brightly and forced the visitors into an unfamiliar style of play of rushing their disposals throughout the corridor.

The Bulls led by 11 points at the nine-minute mark of the second term after a brilliant snap over the shoulder from the opportunistic Jacob Pickett.

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Almost like clockwork, seasoned campaigner Rory O’Brien put his stamp on the contest, booting two goals in as many minutes to put the Panthers back in front.

Despite having plenty of opportunities, the visitors were unable to replicate their scoreboard pressure in the second half, with the home side gradually wearing them down with superior execution under physical pressure.

Barnard believed his men would continue to push for a finals spot, with the Panthers facing a crucial test against Busselton on Saturday at Sir Stewart Bovell Park.

“Full credit to the Bulls,” he said. “They got a sniff of a win and they hung on for dear life. But luckily, we were able to pull one out of the fire right at the end there.”

Bulls coach Craig Nicholls was philosophical about the final result.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Look at our young kids — tonight 16-year-old Kane Johnston played his first league game.

“He played out on the wing and did really well.

“What we have been working on is slowly coming along. Our contested footy was a lot better — but across the board, we were still missing targets, which was a bit of a killer.

“If we had of been a bit cleaner, we could have been lucky enough to get away with a win, but it wasn’t to be.”

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