Francis kicks the winner

Morgan MelvinSouth Western Times

An eight-goal haul and the winning kick after the siren from Brynn Francis elevated South Bunbury to a three-point victory over the Collie Eagles at the Collie Recreation Ground on Sunday.

In a replay of last year’s grand final, the Tigers again had the upper hand in the 12.12 (84) to 12.9 (81) win, but this time Collie did not go down without producing a classic battle between two great rivals.

With a light breeze blowing to the Johnson Street end, Joel Houghton opened up the game for the Eagles with five scoring shots in the first quarter for just two goals, while Jace Fontana was able to break away from a chasing pack to kick his first, giving Collie the flying start they were looking for.

After going goalless during the opening quarter and trailing by 23 points, Francis spearheaded a revival for the Tigers kicking four of his side’s six goals for the second term as they pulled away to a nine-point lead at half time.

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It was goal-for-goal football in the second half with no team able to get a real hold of the game.

Jebb Swallow reduced the margin to just a single point in favour of the Tigers with a kick after the siren to end the third term.

Tigers co-captains Matt Giacci and Jaxon Bell were at their usual best, combining well in the midfield.

Travis Cleggett continued his strong start to the season for the Eagles, as did Blake and Kyle Shanahan.

The Eagles lifted, with cousins Jack and Cameron Davidson along with Liam Ruben, all connecting for a barnstorming goal, but every time Collie got an edge, South Bunbury had a response.

Leigh Kohlmann found some space forward to run into an open goal and kick truly for the Tigers, but with two minutes to go it looked like Collie would get home when Paul Rinder, who rucked all day for the Eagles, took a mark and ran on to give Collie the lead.

But their hopes were dashed when Franics broke free from Matt Michael to mark inside the forward 50.

With the siren sounding as he was in his run up, Francis who had not missed all day, kicked his eighth and took victory right on the brink of death to give South Bunbury an unbeaten start to their 2017 campaign.

The ended in a bit of controversy.

The Eagles called for a head count after Francis booted the final goal, but after consultation, the umpires awarded the Tigers the win to the jubilation of the visiting crowd.

South Bunbury 0.1, 6.5, 8.8, 12.12 (84) def Collie Eagles 3.6, 4.6, 8.7, 12.9 (81)

GOALS: South Bunbury – B. Francis 8, J. Wilson 2, K. Wallrot, L. Kohlmann. Collie Eagles – J. Houghton, J. Fontana 3, J. Davison 2, M. Williams, J. Swallow, L. Reuben, P. Rinder.

BEST: South Bunbury – B. Francis, M. Giacci, Mi. Thompson, J. Ryder, J. Bell, R. Bennell. Collie Eagles – P. Rinder, T. Cleggett, B. Shanahan, J. Davidson, K. Shanahan, J. Houghton.

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