Under-fire Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch is a relieved man after the Lions held on for a nail-biting four-point AFL victory over Carlton, one that so easily could have gone the other way.
The Lions snared their third win of the year but had to do it the hard way.
They withstood a furious late comeback from the Blues who were 41 points down at one stage in the third quarter before getting to within three points with seconds left.
Leppitsch hailed his leaders – including Dayne Zorko and Tom Rockliff who ran riot in midfield – for showing the way.
He also had high praise for his young players for their late heroics defence in sealing the 15.9 (99) to 13.17 (95) victory.
After losing their previous two games by a combined 232 points, it didn’t matter how they got it done as long as they got it done in front of 17,432 fans at the Gabba.
“Fortune favours us today and it’s a good feeling for our club,” said Leppitsch, who is fighting to save his job ahead of an end-of-season review.
“It’s good just for our supporters too, to get the Gabba cheering again and come away feeling good about themselves.”
Skipper Rockliff finished with a game-high 39 disposals, 12 tackles and six clearances and together with former Blue Mitch Robinson (22 disposals, 11 tackles), was everywhere for Brisbane when the game needed to be won.
Zorko (27 disposals) kicked three goals and directly set-up four others – three of them to forward Michael Close who finished with a career-best haul of four and was simply irresistible in the first half.
The Blues, who suffered their ninth-straight defeat, were left to rue inaccurate goalkicking and a failure to convert their dominance after going forward 68 times to Brisbane’s 46.
They kicked the first two goals of the game but Brisbane responded with nine of the next 11 to take a stranglehold on the match.
Carlton coach Brendan Bolton insisted they didn’t underestimate the Lions.
“We just didn’t bring enough defensive intent,” he said.
“We’ll learn from it. We plateaued.
“We’ll challenge really strongly that first half in our review and look at our second half and show the contrast.”