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Royals escape with narrow round one victory after surviving late challenge from Mt Barker

Royals coach Andrew Ruck says his side was lucky to escape with the four points after Mt Barker kicked six of the last seven goals in their season opener at Sounness Park on Saturday.

The Lions kicked the first five majors of the match, three from key forward Nic Ashford, and led by 29 points at half time as they appeared set to coast to victory in round one of the new Great Southern Football League season.

However the Bulls stormed back into the match with two goals in the third and they added four majors in the final term, but the Lions clung on desperately and emerged seven-point winners in a tense finish.

“We were lucky they didn’t kick straight early,” Ruck said.

“They worked their way back into the game.

“In the last quarter we had a few blokes who were underdone and we thought we were cruising five goals up.

“We just couldn’t stop the momentum but in the last three or four minutes a few of our older blokes got their hands on it.”

After some woeful kicking on goal and poor skill execution in the first half, the Bulls were much better in the second half and kicked two goals to one in the third term to trim the deficit to 26 points.

However a freakish snap on the boundary early in the final quarter from the Lions’ Jayson Ford pushed their advantage to 30 points and it appeared to be game over.

The Bulls came again though as Lincoln East got an immediate reply and then the home crowd came alive when new recruit Zach Jackson had his kick smothered but recovered to slot a great goal from the boundary.

A snap from East was then shepherded through on the goal line to give the Bulls three in a row and then Ford was yellow carded for swearing.

East missed his third shot on goal in the final stanza but youngster Camball McMahon slotted his second of the match and that got the home side within five points.

The Lions kicked two behinds and controlled the play in the dying stages to win 11.12 (78) to 9.17 (71).

Ford was terrific with two goals and won plenty of the ball higher up the ground while Kleemann medallist Cameron Allison was at his prolific best in the midfield with 30 disposals and six marks.

The returning Ashford enjoyed a superb day, booting a game-high five goals, four of which came in the opening half while midfielder Zak Mola impressed on debut and skipper Brayden Parker had 29 touches.

Bulls coach David Johnson said it was pleasing the way his side fought back.

The home side was left to rue their wayward kicking in front of goal and lost Jackson and Darcy Wallinger to injury late in the game.

“I can’t knock their courage and intent,” Johnson said.

“Early we butchered it, we were terrible and that caused a bit of fast break footy for them.

“I thought we were brave, we kept coming and I’m really proud of their efforts.”

Jackson was one of the Bulls’ best players across the four quarters amassing 34 possessions and eight makrs on debut, veteran Sam Lehmann (two goals) was everywhere, Bryce Blaszkow was influential and defender Chris Marston was rarely beaten.

Bulls veteran Luke Hammond was chaired from the ground after playing his 175th league game which earns life membership with the club.

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