By JESS WEBSTER
Southport was pushed right to the final siren by a gallant NT Thunder as they secured a tense 11-point victory at Fankhauser Reserve on Saturday.
Thunder got within three points approaching three-quarter time, but the defending premier steadied to finish on top 16.11 (107) to 14.12 (96) and keep its undefeated start to 2019 in tact.
The match began on even terms as NT Thunder threw everything at the Sharks in the attempt to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Gold Coast at home last week.
The Sharks kept their opponents at arms’ length to hold a 12-point lead at the first change, and were well in control by half-time with a six-goal-to-three second quarter opening up a 29-point buffer.
But NT Thunder refused to lie down, kicking six goals to three in the third to give themselves a chance of victory as they headed into the final term only 11 points adrift.
Josh Hall – who was best on ground for the Sharks – stood up in the early stages of the last with back-to-back majors restoring a comfortable 23-point lead at the eight-minute mark.
Southport did well to stem the scoring in the final term as Thunder kicked the next two majors to reduce the gap to 10 points entering time-on.
But the Sharks held firm, holding off the fightback for the remainder of the quarter to escape with the four points.
Southport was well on top in disposals (465-324) and marks (109-75), but were rattled by an impressive and spirited NT Thunder who were fighting relentlessly despite restricted by injuries to Jess Budarick (ribs) and Dylan McLachlan (calf).
Hall (16 disposals, eight marks, six inside 50s, five goals) stood up when it counted for the Sharks, and Tyler Roos (38 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles) was terrific in his new midfield role.
For the visitors, Abraham Ankers was again the catalyst for his side, collecting 24 disposals, seven clearances and two goals.
Thunder’s defence of Daniel Weetra (22 disposals, six marks), Ben Rioli (22 disposals) and young gun Kieren Parnell (15 disposals, six marks), were also among their best performers.
Southport heads to Sydney next week to tackle the GIANTS on Sunday, whilst NT Thunder return home to host Aspley in a huge battle on Saturday night.
Southport Sharks v NT Thunder at Fankhauser Reserve
SOUTHPORT 5.3 11.6 14.9 16.11 (107)
NT THUNDER 3.3 6.7 12.10 14.12 (96)
GOALS – Southport: J Hall 5 M Johnson 4 T Stubbs 2 M Willis J Williams T Bowie M Manteit L Dale. NT Thunder: T Melville 3 S Rioli 3 D Barry 2 A Ankers 2 A Tipungwuti 2 B Taylor D Staunton.
BEST – Southport: J Hall D Fyfe S Tape T Roos B Murdoch J Williams. NT Thunder: A Ankers C Gallio K Parnell B Rioli D Weetra B Carroll.
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