Sale City showed it was well and truly prepared to fight for its place in this year’s AGL Loy Yang North Gippsland Football Netball League finals series with a gritty and crucial win against Woodside.
Already trailing the Wildcats by four points in the race for a top five finish, the Bulldogs went into the game knowing a slip against a direct rival could have been disastrous for their premiership defence.
The home side started brightly, but Woodside fought back to be within 14 points and ensure the game was right in the balance at half-time.
However, City shifted through the gears and put some clear air between them and the visitors by three-quarter-time before finishing the job in the last to win 15.12 (102) to 8.7 (55).
Justin McLay, Joshua Barton and Bohdi Walker (four goals) were the prime movers, with Stuart Buckley and Nick Grainger also making an impact with three goals each.
Ricky Benis, Tom Crosby and Ryan Foat (three goals) were best for the Wildcats, who for the fifth week in a row moved between fifth and sixth place on the ladder – this time heading in the wrong direction.
Sale City jumped back up to fourth, courtesy of its superior percentage and Rosedale’s defeat to Churchill.
The Blues were ahead by a point at three-quarter-time, having led by as much as 17 points early in the third term, before being overrun in spectacular fashion to lose 17.15 (117) to 10.8 (68).
The home side actually booted the last two goals of the game but not before the visitors rattled off 10 straight to blow the contest apart.
Key Cougars Jordan Fenech, Chris Williams (three goals) and Ben Mason (four goals) were among the architects of Rosedale’s demise, with Ben Kearns chiming in with three goals of his own.
Nick Twomey, Joel Bristow and Sam Tudor were best for Rosedale, with Frazar Brouns and Isaac Love hitting the scoreboard with three goals each.
The loss dragged the Blues back into the thick of the finals race, while allowing the Cougars some breathing room in third spot and taking them within striking distance of second-placed Traralgon-Tyers United.
The Bombers got a second crack at flag favourite Yarram but were left with more questions to answer.
The home side was within nine points and had hit the scoreboard with more attempts at half-time but it was the Demons that took the bull by the horns with seven goals to three in the third term.
While spoils were shared in the last, the damage had been done and the ladder leaders pocketed their 14th straight win 17.6 (108) to 11.9 (75).
Jake McFarland celebrated his 18th birthday with five goals on the big stage in a genuine breakout performance.
Griffin Underwood continued his stellar run of form, with Ben Vardy also prominent with three goals in another strong display.
Michael Jacobsen played his best game since switching the maroon of Traralgon for the red and black of TTU, while Kade Duncan and Ricky Cochrane were also good.
It took 14 games, but Cowwarr finally broke through for its first win of the season.
The Saints took the opportunity with both hands, enjoying a 15.23 (113) to 4.9 (33) win, which was enough to lift them from the foot of the ladder.
Trusted warriors Shane Morgan and Pat Tainsh delivered when their side needed it, with Kyle Stamers and Sam Scammell among the other standouts.
Saints coach Brett McMaster told the Latrobe Valley Express the win was just reward for weeks of hard work.
“It was obviously pleasing to get a win and it wouldn’t have been much fun to go through the season without one,” McMaster said.
“We felt like we played some good footy throughout the year with no reward, so it was a nice acknowledgement for the effort we’ve put in and that was the main message.
“We’ve probably always felt we can be competitive with the better sides, and during games we have been for periods of time but we sort of felt if we play four quarters we’ll get good results and we did that (on Saturday).”
It was a bitter pill to take for the Magpies, for whom Ben Britten, Ben Truin and Hayden Busk fought hard, with skipper Andrew May finishing with three of the home side’s four goals for the day.
Trailing by 19 points at half-time to an accurate Tigers outfit, the Roos held the visitors to one goal in the second half on their way to a hard-earned 11.11 (77) to 9.6 (60) win.
Scott Anderson, James Beha and Bradley Berry helped turn the game in their sides favour and Josh Neille was on hand to finish some of that work with three goals.
Troy Forrest, Joseph Colaciello and Ryan Burns were excellent for Gormandale.
Heyfield remains two games behind tied trio Sale City, Rosedale and Woodside in seventh place, three wins ahead of the eighth-placed Tigers.
The standout clash of the split round 15 looks set to be the one taking place at Gaskin Park, where finals bound Churchill hosts a Woodside team clawing at the door.
With Sale City meeting Cowwarr and Rosedale facing a tricky but winnable game against Heyfield, the Wildcats will be desperate to bank four points and head into their one week break with high spirits.
Elsewhere, TTU travels to Gormandale and Yarram hosts Glengarry in games the top two will be expected to win.
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This post was written by Michelle Kyle