THE Bendigo Bank Pioneers celebrated a long-awaited victory after Saturday's TAC Cup football clash with NSW-ACT Rams in Mildura.
After a dominant first half the Pioneers led 52-10 at half-time of the match at Sarah Oval, home of South Mildura Football Club.
The Rams fought back brilliantly in the final term, but the Pioneers triumphed 11.5 (71) to 7.12 (54).
The win was Bendigo's first since the round three clash with North Ballarat on April 5 at Epsom-Huntly.
All of the Pioneers players from the Sunraysia region shone in the club's first hit-out in Mildura since 2011.
Key defender Josh Ryan from South Mildura was best afield and had great support from Lake Boga's Matt Pickering at half-back, Mildura's Sam Simmons in midfield, and Maryborough's Bailey Edwards from half-back.
Pioneers' coach David Newett said the quick movement of the ball put the NSW-ACT defence under a lot of pressure in the opening hour.
"Our start was one of the best this season. We had a lot of possession and inside 50s in the first quarter, but just didn't capitalise."
In the second quarter the Pioneers kept attacking and were rewarded by scoring 6.3 to a point.
The spread of goalkickers, which was nine by match end, was a key factor in Bendigo's victory.
Leading goalkickers for the Pioneers were Kyabram's Liam Barrrett and Walpeup-Underbool's Luke Coates on two apiece.
Newett said the run and carry from the half-back line played a big part in building a seven-goal lead by half-time.
"Liam Barrett just keeps on winning a lot of contests and teamed really with Dan Davie from Kyneton and Bailey Edwards from Maryborough."
Strathfieldsaye's Tom Cole figured in a lot of play through the centre.
Newett said it was great to see the players who had relocated from Mildura or were still based there play so well in this match.
The Pioneers in Saturday's clash from Sunryasia were Josh and Lachlan Ryan, Matthew Chisari and Jesse Muscatello (South Mildura); Sam Simmons (Mildura); Jayden Fox (Imperials); Jonty Marciano (Red Cliffs).
After this weekend's general bye the Pioneers are on the road again to play Geelong Falcons on June 14 at Werribee.