Lions overcome sluggish start to reel in reigning premiers

Pakenham livewire Tianah Vandesteeg was up to her usual tricks against Olinda Ferny Creek on Saturday night. 408421 Picture: EUAN POULTON PHOTOGRAPHY

By David Nagel

Pakenham has taken sole possession of second place on the Outer East Women’s Division One ladder after the Lions edged out reigning-premier Olinda Ferny Creek by six points on Saturday.

Through the vagaries of the fixture, the Lions and Bloods met at the same venue just a fortnight ago when a three-goal opening burst led the Lions to a 24-point victory.

It was a completely different story on the weekend, with the Bloods coming out firing and kicking the opening two goals of the contest.

The Bloods came out breathing fire, winning several free kicks with some high-pressure tackling as the Lions struggled to adjust to the tempo.

A great mark and goal to Eloise Tyler was followed by a classy finish to Olivia Edwards and the home side led by 12.

An answer from league-leading goalkicker Aiesha Kolaritsch saw the Lions trail by seven points at quarter time.

Pakenham lifted its intensity in the second quarter with Sarah Connelly setting a high-bar on the wing, while Annalise Ryan, Abbey McKenzie, Emily Devine and Kate Green tightened things up in defence.

Sarah Ventura started to influence the ruck, allowing Chloe Nagel, Bianca Moody and Courtney Stephens to do their thing through the midfield.

A great goal from Ava Deszcz levelled the scores, before Ryan, who had the job on Edwards; drifted forward to mark and goal to give the Lions a seven-point lead at half time.

Olinda once lifted in the third term, with Edwards kicking her second to square the scores away.

Rielle Menere then kicked her first goal in senior football, dribbling one through from the goal-line, to give the lions a six-point lead.

Carol Schenk then kicked the last of the third quarter to give Olinda a one-point lead at the final change.

The desperation levels of both teams lifted even further in the final stanza, with strong tackling and a fierce attack at the football the main highlights.

Scores were locked at the nine-minute mark of the final quarter, when Deszcz took a strong mark 35 out from goal.

The Gippsland Power youngster showed composure beyond her years; kicking a beautiful long goal to give the Lions the edge by six.

Both teams had their chances in the final exchanges, with the ball deep in the Olinda forward line when the final siren sounded…the Lions winning 5.5(35) to 4.5(29).

The desperate defensive efforts of Ryan were telling in the final minutes of the contest, while Ventura, Nagel and Stephens helped the Lions stay structured in the final term.

Tianah Vandesteeg, Tanya Stafford, Brianna Menere, Courtney Karayannis, Emily Johnston, Bec Domotor and Aliya Daniel also did some important things at key moments for the Lions.

Pakenham faces another huge challenge this week; hosting third-placed Upwey-Tecoma at Toomuc Reserve at 10.45 on Saturday.

The game between Olinda and Pakenham was the only game played in round six, with Belgrave and Berwick Springs having byes and Upwey-Tecoma unfortunately having to forfeit against top-of-the-table Healesville.