AGL Loy Yang North Gippsland Football Netball League powerhouse Churchill had all the answers at Gaskin Park on Saturday.
A second-quarter statement was backed up with suitable replies to all the follow-up questions Woodside could pose in a furious-paced and high-quality round 14 contest.
The Wildcats led early before the home side reeled off seven straight goals, including the last two of the opening term, to take a 38-point lead into half-time.
The visitors hit back to win the second half, but every time they built some scoreboard pressure, Churchill responded with a goal of its own and eventually won the battle 17.15 (117) to 13.18 (96).
“The second quarter was definitely our best and it put a bit of a margin between us until the final siren,” Cougars coach Allan Chandler said.
“It was a real battle of the midfields. At first it was even, then in the second quarter and the start of the third we dominated and after that they did but we were still able to take our opportunities.”
Sam Mazou and Nic Campbell returned for Churchill in place of unavailable pair Brad Knowles and Billy Wight, but ruckman Dillon Leys and forward Hamish Towns continued their quest for match fitness with another week in the reserves.
Woodside made four changes to the side that downed TTU in round 13, with Hank Norman, Ethan Stevens, Dale Hanratty and Blake Reed returning in place of and Mathew Nelson, Tom Glenn, Tim Hendricken and Keegan Dingo, who missed his flight from Darwin.
Woodside coach Gary Jones was left to rue a missed opportunity to cement a top three spot.
“In the second half we had a lot of run and a lot of the footy but our basic skills let us down,” Jones said.
“We missed some simple shots to bridge the gap and couldn’t get a run on.
“Being six goals down at half-time I was worried our blokes might drop the bundle a bit but to their credit we battled it out.
“We are right there, we just need to work on our skills under pressure at training and hopefully we can still finish in the top three.”
Goals from midfield proved vital, with Churchill skipper Chris Williams twice delivering a captain’s goal when it was needed, to go with three from fellow on-baller Travis Brighton.
Cougars forward Michael Santo finished the day with three goals from eight scoring shots and Chandler two.
A late hamstring injury aside, Wildcats ruckman Aiden Fitzgerald impressed with his follow-up work and mobility around the ground, while Cameron Whiteoak’s six goals kept Woodside in the contest and earned him the best-on-ground medal as part of Indigenous Round.
Churchill’s Jarrod Broadbent and Dean Degroot and Wildcats Rob Michaelides (three goals) and Rowan Missen were other standout performers.
The win moved the Cougars one game clear of Woodside in second spot, while the third-placed Wildcats remain two ahead of Yarram, Rosedale and Heyfield, with the former and the latter holding a game in hand.
TTU v Rosedale
Rosedale piled the pressure back on Heyfield and Yarram, with a comfortable win away to Traralgon-Tyers United.
Brandon McDonald booted eight goals in a best-on-ground performance as the reigning premier romped to a 16.12 (108) to 9.5 (59) win on the back of a 10-goal-to-three second half.
The win was enough move the Blues back into the top five, pending results from the second half of the split round next weekend.
Rosedale leaders Dale Fleming and Sam Bristow were also prominent, while Rhys Martin, Lachlan Pollard and Guy Sinclair were among the Bombers’ best.
Sale City v Glengarry
Fresh from back-to-back thrillers against Churchill and Heyfield, Sale City resumed usual proceedings with a 114-point thrashing of Glengarry.
Six goals from Jacob Schuback and standout performances from Justin McLay, Ben Chivers and Alex Isailovic led the Bulldogs to a 19.16 (130) to 2.4 (16) win.
Andrew May, Chris Wangman and Ben Truin battled hard for the Magpies.
Round 14 concludes next weekend, with Cowwarr hosting Heyfield and Yarram on the road against Gormandale.
Churchill dealt Woodside its first A-grade loss of the season.
The third-placed Cougars edged the ladder-leading Wildcats 46-42 in a thrilling contest.
Elsewhere, Sale City upset Glengarry 47-35 to keep its finals hopes alive, while Rosedale downed Traralgon-Tyers United 66-18.
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