Tigers surging towards finals

By Brayden May

HAVING a strong defence goes a long way to winning a football match.

And Rochester flexed their defensive muscle on Saturday as they overcame Mansfield by 50 points.

After taking a nine-point lead into half time the defence came out for the second half and cut off any forward move leaving the hapless Mansfield goalless for the rest of the game.

With what was a slim lead the Tigers knew they would have to keep grinding away to secure the four points.

Led by James Gledhill — who held Mansfield star James Lawton to just one goal — the home side made it five wins from their past six matches as it surges towards finals football.

‘‘James has established himself as one of the better defenders in the competition in recent years,’’ coach James Flaherty said.

‘‘It was a great match-up to watch and it lifted the rest of the team. Not allowing a team to kick a goal in a half of footy shows how well we are playing at the moment.

‘‘Across the ground we made it difficult for Mansfield — our pressure was through the roof.’’

While the game hung in the balance at three-quarter time, Rochester were in no mood for a tight finish, kicking six goals to one behind in the final 30 minutes.

‘‘Our last quarters have been one of the biggest positives in the past few weeks,’’ Flaherty explained.

‘‘The energy was good throughout the week and we brought it into the game. I think we were able to capitalise on the excitement in the last quarter.

‘‘Being able to finish a game in that way bodes well going forward.’’

Remarkably after starting the season with four straight losses, the Tigers now sit outside the Goulburn Valley top six on percentage.

And with a game against finals contender Seymour to come this weekend Flaherty and his charges are embracing the challenge.

‘‘We’ve had a great turnaround but we need to keep going,’’ he said.

‘‘Seymour are one of the top teams in the competition and we’ve got a lot of respect for them.

‘‘Winning the midfield battle is going to be the biggest challenge for our group.’’

Seymour is coming off a solid win against Tatura and is sitting third on the GVL ladder where it is shaping as the best of the rest behind the Kyabram juggernaut and high-performing Echuca. The game will be a serious test of how far Rochester has come in recent weeks.