Tyrone Thorne booted five goals in his league debut to help Rockingham keep their hopes of a top-three finish and a second-chance final alive with a victory over Halls Head on Sunday.
The 17-year-old put in an electrifying performance coming back from Peel Thunder’s colts for the week to finish with a bag of goals, as the Rams took the win 14.13 (97) to 8.11 (59) at Hot Klobba Stadium.
Rockingham had the jump early before Halls Head clawed their way back into the contest to trail by just six points at quarter time, but the visitors found some fluency to break away in the second.
The Rams piled up six goals to Halls Head’s two coming out of quarter time, with Brandon Smith nailing his two majors for the game in the period as his side progressed to lead by 32 at the long break.
Like they have many times against Rockingham this year the Lightning managed to even the contest and refused to go down without a fight in the third, but for all their efforts they weren’t able to trim the lead back.
Mitch Royal was fantastic for the home side, but it did little to stop the Rams ending the game 38 points in front.
Rockingham coach Scott Franklin was pleased with his side’s ability to get the job done in the face of a persistent Halls Head, with the victory keeping them in the race for a top-three finish.
“Every time we play Halls Head they never really seem to go away, which is a credit to them, but I thought our guys stuck it out and did a pretty good job in the end,” he said.
“There wasn’t anything overly impressive about the game, but I was happy with our ability to dig in when we were challenged.”
That ability to dig in led the Rams to an important win, which sets up a tantalising pre-finals clash with the third-placed Centrals in the final round of the regular season this coming weekend.
It’s a simple equation for both sides, with the victor taking third place and securing a lifeline in the first week of finals regardless of percentage.
Franklin said his side wasn’t backing down from the challenge.
“Getting a second chance is huge, especially for a team like us that hasn’t played finals in five years,” he said.
“We recognise how important this game is, we won’t downplay it, and we know we need to bring our best to knock off a side as good as Centrals.”
The clash for third spot kicks off at Mundijong Oval this Saturday, 4.30pm.