BRISBANE broke its scoring shackles with a commanding 45-point QClash win over Gold Coast at the Gabba on Wednesday night, but the Lions were again left counting a heavy injury toll.
Just five days after losing Virgin Australia AFL All Australian Harris Andrews for up to six weeks, the Lions will now sweat on the outcomes of injuries to young stars Jarrod Berry (shoulder) and Brandon Starcevich (concussion), who both failed to return after half-time.
LIONS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats
Lachie Neale (33 disposals, 19 contested) enhanced his Brownlow Medal chances with another prolific display, netting him a second Marcus Ashcroft Medal for best afield in the 13.10 (88) to 6.7 (43) victory.
No.1 draft pick Cam Rayner (12 touches and three goals) played one of his best games for the club, setting the tone with a dominant first quarter.
After kicking just two goals in his previous five outings, Charlie Cameron (2.3) looked back to his zippy best, as did skipper Dayne Zorko (24 disposals and two goals).
With its fifth straight win Brisbane is now in second place, and victories over Sydney in Cairns on Sunday and Carlton in the final round would give it at least two finals at the Gabba.
After failing to top 60 points in its past four matches, Brisbane was at its scintillating best early, slamming on five first-quarter goals to blow the game open against a flat-footed Suns.
It was the kind of dominant win the Lions needed after scraping by in some close contests in recent weeks.
Jack Payne did an admirable job in replacement of Andrews, while Hipwood's one goal told only part of his excellent night, as he ran reliable Sam Collins ragged, finishing with 10 marks and 14 disposals.
The Suns will be disappointed with their showing, trailing by 28 points at quarter-time after being bullied around the ball, conceding 19 inside 50s to four, and never genuinely getting into the contest.
Injuries keep mounting for the Lions
After losing Harris Andrews with a hamstring injury against Collingwood, the Lions are again licking their wounds. Brandon Starcevich suffered concussion early in the second quarter when he flew in for a towering spoil, only to hit the ground hard and be groggily nursed from the field. Ten minutes later it was Jarrod Berry who was helped off, clutching his shoulder after being driven to ground in a tackle. Lincoln McCarthy also left the field during the second with a badly corked quad but returned to play out the game.
Chris Fagan pulling his hair out
Although he played one of his best games for the club, Cam Rayner drew the ire of his coach Chris Fagan during the third quarter. After taking a strong overhead mark 15m out and just off centre, Rayner looked certain to kick his fourth goal but casually played on with a snap and hit the belly of the ball to miss to the near side. Cameras cut to a furious Fagan on the bench, none-too-pleased with his young charge's effort. It came after unselfish second gamer Keidean Coleman could have kicked his first career goal but handpassed to an unsuspecting Dan McStay in the goalsquare who missed with his volley attempt.
A tough night for some young Suns
Fresh off a 10-day break after destroying North Melbourne in its most recent outing, Gold Coast looked well off the pace, particularly some of its young stars. After tearing the Kangaroos apart, small forward Izak Rankine battled to get involved and it seemed the harder he tried the worse things got. Ben King finished with two goals but had little influence against fellow youngster Jack Payne, while Connor Budarick struggled to contain Charlie Cameron. Better days lie ahead for these young guns and they will learn plenty from the experience of playing the Lions.
BRISBANE 5.4 8.6 11.10 13.10 (88)
GOLD COAST 1.0 4.3 5.5 6.7 (43)
Brisbane: Rayner 3, Cameron 2, Zorko 2, Berry, Hipwood, McCarthy, McCluggage, McStay, Robinson
Gold Coast: Corbett 2, King 2, Weller, Ainsworth
Brisbane: Neale, Rayner, Zorko, Hipwood, Cameron, McCluggage, Rich
Gold Coast: Ellis, Anderson, Greenwood, Ainsworth
Brisbane: Starcevich (concussion), Berry (shoulder)
Gold Coast: Nil