GISBORNE remains alive in the Bendigo Football League finals race, while Eaglehawk’s late-season struggles continue following Saturday’s clash at Gardiner Reserve.
With their season on the line, the Bulldogs withstood a last-quarter fightback from the Hawks to win 14.15 (99) to 13.13 (91) at Gardiner Reserve.
The result leaves Gisborne percentage outside the top five ahead of its round 18 game against Castlemaine this weekend.
Now with three losses in a row, Eaglehawk must beat South Bendigo at Canterbury Park this Saturday to retain its position in the top three, having earlier sat six points clear in top spot at the end of round 14.
After struggling to get over bottom side Kangaroo Flat last week, Gisborne produced some of its best football of the season in the first three quarters on Saturday to build a 47-point lead at the final change, 13.14 to 6.9.
However, the game wasn’t over as the Hawks, inspired by Brodie Filo, stormed home with the breeze in the final term, adding seven goals to one to cut the final margin to eight points.
“We played really well for three quarters, before they got a roll-on in the last quarter with the breeze,” Gisborne coach Kevin Fitzgerald said.
“We tired a bit in the last quarter, but we’d done enough and it was a really good win.
“We got the game on our terms in those first three quarters and were able to play our style of footy and controlled the ball well, which was pleasing.
“One of the problems with having six guys in the side aged under 20 is they can go off the boil a bit, and that’s what happened a bit in that last quarter.”
The Bulldogs’ best player was Ben Sonogan, who started on the wing before being moved onto Eaglehawk dangerman Kain Robins.
Anthony Belcher stepped up in the ruck in the absence of Tom Waters, who didn’t play after injuring his ankle the previous week.
Midfielder Patrick Fitzgerald and defenders Cameron Medica and Tim Walsh, who held the Hawks’ Matt Gretgrix to two goals, were other prominent players for the winners.
Matthew Knox kicked three goals before leaving the field during the third quarter.
Eaglehawk coach Luke Monaghan said his side was ordinary for the first three quarters, but he was pleased with the Hawks’ fightback in the last term.
“We were able to finally play the style of footy we’re capable of in that last quarter,” Monaghan said.
“We lost the game, but we can come out of it thinking that last quarter is what we’re capable of and is the style of footy that will win matches.
“So we’ll take that as a positive out of the game, but you definitely can’t be giving sides an eight-goal headstart.”
Monaghan said the Hawks had been outrun and outclassed by the Bulldogs in the first three quarters.
“And they were a lot cleaner than us. We fumbled and made skill errors,” Monaghan said.
“Again, there were periods of football where the opposition got a run-on and we were unable to halt it.”
The electric Filo, who kicked three goals, was the Hawks’ standout player, with others in the best including utility Darcy Richards, captain Luke Button in defence and young midfielder Kevin Archbold, who continued his good form.