CLAREMONT kept itself right in the hunt for top spot and put a significant dent in Peel Thunder's hops of returning to the finals having battled hard for a nine-point win at muddy David Grays Arena on Sunday.
The game in Mandurah was the last of Round 15 and had plenty at stake for both teams with Claremont needing to bounce back from losses to West Perth and South Fremantle to avoid slipping from a top two spot while Peel needed to string wins together to stay in the top five hunt.
And by the end of the afternoon at a boggy David Grays Arena, Claremont had done enough to return to the winner's list and maintain second position with the 11.9 (75) to 9.12 (66) win away from home.
The usual suspects got it done for Claremont as Jye Bolton (26 disposals, six inside 50s) and Bailey Rogers (25 disposals, six inside 50s) got it done through the midfield while Lachlan Martinis (34 disposals) continued his outstanding season across half-back.
Peel’s Ben Hancock (32 disposals, seven inside 50s) and Tyrone Thorne (27 disposals, seven marks) were superb while Connor Blakely (31 disposals) was strong too, however struggled in front of goal kicking just four behinds for the match.
The muddy conditions provided a scrappy start to the game, but Peel managed to kick three consecutive goals to finish the term including two from young forward Lachlan Cullen.
Claremont struggled to keep up with the quick ball movement of the Thunder as returning skipper Ben Howlett’s smart ball use and decision-making often propelled Peel’s attacking transitions.
The second term started similar, as the game was played predominantly in Peel’s forward half and after missing some gettable shots, Docker Joel Western slotted the opening goal for the term with a set shot from 50m out.
However, after being held to just three disposals in the first quarter, dual Sandover Medallist Jye Bolton put on the Superman cape to have 13 touches for the quarter igniting the fire in the Tigers comeback as they booted three goals in 10 minutes to finish the term trailing by just two points.
The Tigers momentum continued in the third term, as they started to get on top of Peel in all areas of the game with Martinis’ ball use across the half backline becoming extremely damaging for the away side.
An excellent running goal from 50m out came late from Peel ruckman Sandy Brock, which brought the margin back nine points at the final break.
Peel hit the scoreboard early in the final term with Western’s third goal to bring the margin back to three points.
They fought bravely for the remainder of the game, but the class of Claremont were too good as they finished the game nine-point winners.
SMALLWOOD’S BIG HANGER
Claremont’s Dylan Smallwood might have just taken Mark of the Year over Thunder skipper Ben Howlett. The defender leapt almost completely over the top the former Bomber but managed to get some awesome hang time and spark the Tigers comeback as they booted three consecutive goals in the five minutes immediately after his mark. He still faces some stiff competition for the award from a couple West Coast Eagles with Brendan Ah Chee and Nathan Vardy the other two most likely contenders.
MEEK'S ATTACKING AUDITION
As the Dockers look to have lost Rory Lobb with an ankle injury for a number of weeks and Sean Darcy is hopeful of lining up against the Swans next week after sustaining his own knee injury in Thursday night’s loss to Geelong, all eyes were on Lloyd Meek as the obvious replacement. After starting in the ruck, Meek spent almost the entire second term playing deep forward, suggesting that Justin Longmuir will be hoping for Meek to play more time up forward if he is to come in for his first AFL game since Round 4. He finished the game with 11 disposals, 22 hit outs and a behind.
IT WAS NICE HAVING YOU HAYDEN
Hayden Young couldn’t do much more to impress the Fremantle Dockers selectors after putting together two strong performances having come back from a hamstring injury. The No. 7 draft pick was one of his team’s best on Sunday taking strong intercept marks across half-back as well as using the ball as well as anyone on the ground. He looks a class above at WAFL level and could have an immediate impact in the AFL for the Dockers. He finished with 23 disposals and six marks.
OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – ROUND 15
PEEL THUNDER 4.3 5.5 6.9 9.12 (66)
CLAREMONT 2.2 5.3 8.6 11.9 (75)
PEEL THUNDER: Goals – Western, Cullen 3; Randall, Giro, Brock.
Best – Hancock, Randall, Young, Western, Thorne, Blakely, Duman, Watson.
CLAREMONT: Goals – T Smallwood 3; Buller, Manuel, Barton 2; Rogers, Eastland.
Best – Martinis, Eastland, Edwards, Rogers, Bolton, Elliott.