THE Bendigo Bank Pioneers endured a painful lesson in Saturday's start to their TAC Cup under-18s season against Murray Bushrangers in Shepparton.
Despite a final-quarter fightback which it won 41-8, Bendigo was beaten by eight points at Deakin Reserve.
Ill-discipline which resulted in some goals from 50m penalties would prove costly against a well-drilled and skilful Murray line-up.
Maryborough's Bailey Edwards goaled first approaching the three-minute mark of the contest when he swooped on the loose ball and snapped truly on the run.
The Bushrangers scored the next two before South Mildura's Lachlan Ryan marked and goaled.
A Murray reply was followed by Kerang's Jaden McGrath taking a terrific mark in the goalsquare.
A hat-trick of goals put Murray up by 18 points at the first change.
Although Edwards, Sandhurst's Billy Evans and McGrath were on target in the second, the Bushrangers capitalised on a lot of midfield dominance to lead 72-36 by half-time.
Bendigo did plenty of attacking early in the third term.
For while the Pioneers missed opportunities, the Bushrangers did not as the lead grew to seven goals.
Bendigo's only goal in the third was kicked by the busy Cameron Barrett from Balranald.
The Pioneers refused to yield and were rewarded with goals on the run by captain Jake Maher from Mallee Eagles and another by Lachlan Ryan.
Murray replied, but it was Bendigo which finished strongly.
More direct play and fierce intent to win the contest led to goals by Red Cliffs Liam McGlashan, Maher and then a double by Swan Hill's Arnold Kirby, the second being from a snapshot.
Shortly after Kirby's goal the siren sounded.
Pioneers coach David Newett said although there were a lot of positives to take from the game, the reality was Murray won the contest.
"We have set a goal to win 10 matches and play finals this season," said Newett.
"Today we gave up some easy goals through 50m penalties and a lack of discipline.
"In the second and third quarters we were outplayed for a lot of the time.
"To fight back was great, but we allowed Murray to gain momentum and build a lead (more than six goals) way too easily.
"Pressure and workrate has to be on from the get-go, not from halfway through the match, or the start of the last quarter.
"We can't be satisfied with being beaten by eight points.
"There were massive positives to take from this game, but there's no four points in the bank for us."
Best for the Pioneers were Maher, Evans, Strathfieldsaye's Tommy Cole off half-back and through midfield, Edwards, Kyneton key position player Jordan Mangan, and South Bendigo wingman-forward Blake Poyser.
The Pioneers are at Epsom-Huntly Reserve next Saturday to play North Ballarat Rebels from 1.30pm.
Murray Bushrangers 6.3 11.6 14.9 15.11 (101)
Bendigo Pioneers 3.3 6.6 7.10 13.15 (93)
GOALS – Murray Bushrangers: M. Mahady 4, E. Wales, D. Howard 2, T. Holman, D. McDonald, N. Mellington, H. Peni, B. Pritchard, J. Schache, B. Webster. Bendigo Pioneers: B. Edwards, A. Kirby, J. Maher, J. McGrath, L. Ryan 2, C. Barrett, B. Evans, L. McGlashan.
BEST – Murray Bushrangers: I. Muller, D. Howe, J. Clarke, B. Pritchard, M. Mahady, J. Marshall. Bendigo Pioneers: J. Maher, B. Evans, T. Cole, B. Edwards, J. Mangan, B. Poyser.
At Deakin Reserve, Shepparton.