Cougars claw Demons

Scott Berechree

CHURCHILL overcame Yarram in a spirited Good Friday meeting.

The Cougars joined Rosedale and Sale City as the only undefeated sides after two rounds of North Gippsland football with their 10.11 (71) to 8.13 (61) victory.

The rematch of last year’s grand finalists was played in front of a large holiday crowd, which was treated to a fierce clash that went down to the wire.

It was only when the visiting Churchill side slotted the final goal of the game 29 minutes into the fourth quarter the result was sealed in a game which provided plenty of talking points.

Ben Kearns and Blake Slater goaled early for Churchill and it looked like a free-flowing contest would ensue with both sides moving the ball quickly.

With Daniel Vardy getting his hand on the ball from the centre clearances, Yarram hit back with just two points separating the teams as they headed to their huddles at quarter-time.

With tensions running high on and off the field, the quarter-time break threatened to boil over and the message from each of the coaches when they were finally able to speak to their players was to focus on the ball.

Once play got underway again, the Cougars gained the early momentum.

When Kurt Holt hit the score board after his return from the bench, it looked as though Churchill would get a run on and end the contest.

To Yarram’s credit, however, it rallied hard to stay in the match.

Griffin Underwood was lively around the contest and looked dangerous every time he went forward and, alongside recruit Jack Weston, seemed to find the ball at will for the Demons and rarely wasted possession.

Several costly misses in front of goal prevented Yarram taking full advantage of its hard work heading into the main change, when it trailed by 11 points.

With both sides down to just 21 players after a physically challenging first half, it was going to be a war of attrition in the second.

The Cougars again took the early advantage, with Travis Brighton marking and goaling before Ben Skinner goaled. Skinner was quick to take the advantage from a rare Churchill forward 50 free kick.

With the Cougars out to a 16-point lead and looking dangerous, Weston stood up for Yarram, kicking a quality goal on the run to bring his side back to within 10 points at the final change.

The final quarter began with a flurry of goals from Yarram.

Despite repeat entries, Yarram failed to capitalise as Jordan Fenech and Kyle Hearn began to take some intercept marks for Churchill.

When Kurt Holt marked and goaled for his second, it was game on with about 15 minutes to play.

An impressive stoppage clearance from Cougar Bradyen Kokshorn at centre wing saw the ball flicked into the hands of coach Chris Williams.

Williams hit up Brendan Holt on the lead who, not to be outdone by his son, split the big sticks with a floating punt that gave the Cougars the lead.

At the 29-minute mark, Skinner sharked a loose ball and slammed through what was to be the final goal of the game.