Dragons run riot in Bulldogs demolition

DYNAMIC DRAGON: Sandhurst's Lee Coghlan kicks against Gisborne at the QEO on Saturday. Picture: PETER WEAVING

DYNAMIC DRAGON: Sandhurst's Lee Coghlan kicks against Gisborne at the QEO on Saturday. Picture: PETER WEAVING

ANOTHER week, another hiding dished out by Bendigo Football League ladder-leaders Sandhurst.

But this one on Saturday had an extra edge to it, with the Dragons' 73-point thumping of Gisborne at the Queen Elizabeth Oval coming against an opponent that had also gone into round seven undefeated.

For the third week in a row, the Dragons had the game sewn up at half-time as they cruised to a 19.20 (134) to 9.7 (61) victory.

The outclassed Gisborne managed to add as much respect to the scoreboard as you could in a 73-point hiding by kicking six of its nine goals in the last quarter.

On a perfect day for football, Sandhurst held Gisborne to just two scoring shots in the first half (1.1) and only seven up until three quarter-time (3.4) in a much-hyped clash that quickly evaporated into a fizzer.

"Every time the challenge is thrown up lately, the guys seem to want to jump into it and strangle it early, whereas earlier in the year we had some slow starts," Dragons coach Brett Fitzpatrick said.

"The thing I liked most out of today was our contested ball-work and defensive pressure from the backline, through the midfield and into our forward 50.

"That showed on the scoreboard at half-time when we limited them to 1.1... to walk off at half-time against a side regarded as a top-three contender and have them 1.1 was very rewarding."

The warning bells were ringing early for Gisborne when the Dragons had nine scoring shots without capitalising to two in the first term to lead by 17 points at quarter-time, 3.6 to 1.1.

With Sandhurst already looking threatening at quarter-time, the Dragons lifted another cog in the second term as they busted the game wide open.

The Dragons' pressure strangled the Bulldogs, with Gisborne constantly turning the ball over across half-forward against the disciplined Sandhurst defence.

On the few times the Bulldogs were able to get the ball inside 50 - and there were only five for the quarter - it came out just as quick through the Dragons' rebounding work led superbly by Andrew O'Connor.

The Bulldogs failed to score in the second quarter, while down the other end, Sandhurst added 4.5.

Sandhurst full-forward Ryan Haythorpe - the only member of the 2004 premiership team that gathered for a reunion playing for the Dragons on Saturday - kicked three goals in the second term, including a beauty from the boundary in the South Bendigo social rooms pocket that typified his side's confidence.

The half-time margin was 46 points, 7.11 to 1.1, with the 18 scoring shots to two perhaps more indicative of the Dragons' complete dominance.

With the game set up in the first half, the Dragons - who have this year struck the perfect balance between attacking flair and the defensive mindset to apply constant pressure all over the ground - added 12 goals to eight in the second half to not only win their seventh game of the season, but ensure all seven victories have been by at least 51 points.

In what was another even spread of contributors, half-forward Lachlan Ross (two goals) earned best on ground honours for the high-flying Dragons.

The lively Joel Wharton, forwards Haythorpe and Mitch Dole, who kicked five goals each, and the reliable O'Connor across half-back were also among the standouts.

Andre Headberry (two goals), who played forward and back, Tom May and Patrick Trotta, who kicked three goals, were the three best for the Bulldogs, who went 54 minutes between Jarrad Lynch kicking their first goal in the opening term and Trotta adding their second 19 minutes into the third term.

"Sandhurst dictated to us and in that first quarter-and-a-bit we butchered the footy and lost confidence and they just dominated all over the ground," Gisborne coach Rod Sharp said.

"They are a very good side and put us to the sword. We'll learn plenty out of it and keep believing in what we can do."

Gisborne had Ollie Messaoudi (back) a late withdrawal, with the veteran onballer among five key Bulldogs who didn't play.

• Match statistics:

Centre clearances: Sandhurst 15; Gisborne 15.

Inside 50s: Sandhurst 57; Gisborne 32.

Stoppages: Sandhurst 22; Gisborne 12.

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