TASMANIA has withstood a final quarter charge by NSW/ACT to win the first game of the division two NAB AFL Championships at Southport by two points on Saturday, with midfielder Kieran Lovell starring.
Lovell racked up 42 touches in the Mariners' narrow win, which came after the NSW/ACT – chasing a 24-point three-quarter time margin - kicked four goals to one in the final term.
Lovell, a nuggety inside midfielder who has been likened to Fremantle's Lachie Neale, was Tassie's best along with half back Mitchell Hibberd and Tyler Gavralas.
Half back Mitchell Hibberd was also impressive for Tasmania with 30 touches while Nicholas Dodge kicked three goals.
A dislocated finger in the second quarter wasn't enough to stop Rams' co-captain Jacob Hopper, who had 17 touches to half time and 33 for the game.
The talented midfielder is tied to Greater Western Sydney as a zone academy player out of the Riverina.
He also was influential in the contest with nine clearances, and kicked a goal in an important final-term performance.
NSW/ACT was without co-captain Callum Mills, who has a shin injury, and midfielder Matthew Kennedy, who has injured knee ligaments and will miss eight weeks.
Their absences hurt the team in the midfield but they benefited from strong performances from their bottom-age players, including Harrison Macreadie and William Setterfield.
Tasmania took a 15-point lead into the second quarter after kicking three goals to one in the opening term, with Isaac Franks nailing two of them.
Lovell had a solid first half with 19 disposals while Hibberd had 16 for the Mariners as they held a six-point lead at the main break, with their inaccuracy in front of goal costing them the chance to broaden the gap.
Tasmania then opened up a 24-point lead in the third quarter, with the Mariners nailing five to the Rams' two.
NSW/ACT stormed home in the final quarter but, despite a late goal from Jock Cornell – his second for the day - with seconds remaining, Tasmania was able to hold on for a two-point win, after ultimately winning more of the 50-50 contests.
Harrison Himmelberg kicked three goals for the Rams while Charlie Bance had 23 touches, and Callum McFadden 11 (seven contested) despite being treated for a cut head in the second quarter.
NSW/ACT 1.2 3.3 5.5 10.10 (70)
TASMANIA 3.5 3.9 8.11 10.12 (72)
NSW/ACT: Himmelberg 3, Cornell 2, Bance, Flynn, McFadden, Hopper, Sproule
Tasmania: Dodge 3, Quinn 2, Rainbird 2, Franks 2, Smith
NSW/ACT: Hopper, Bance, Himmelberg, Macreadie, Minogue, Marshall
Tasmania: Lovell, Gavralas, Hibberd, Donnellan, Rainbird, Hayden