STRATHFIELDSAYE answered the challenge from Golden Square to kick away to its seventh win in a row by 39 points in the Bendigo Football League on Saturday.
The 11.16 (82) to 6.7 (43) victory at MyJet Oval was full of merit for the Storm.
Not only did the Storm overcome a slow start when they conceded the first three goals of the match and took 14 minutes to get the ball inside 50 for the first time, they also defeated the reigning premiers on their home turf in front of a 50-year premiership reunion crowd off the back of a five-day break.
Plus, the Storm were also two men down after suffering injuries to Lachlan Sharp (sciatic) and Jayden Donaldson (quadricep and possible broken cheekbone).
“I thought our contested footy was as good as it has been all year today,” Strathfieldsaye coach Darryl Wilson said.
“And our tackling, particularly in the second half, we were also really happy with.”
The Bulldogs unleashed their trademark pressure of years gone by on the Storm in the first quarter and ran the ball well as they made a flying start, kicking the opening three goals through Corey Jones, Harry Donegan and Lachlan Woodward in what was the home side’s best period for the day.
However, after kicking three goals in the first term, the Bulldogs would only add three more for the rest of the game as the Storm - who improved to 9-1 - upped the ante.
Having trailed by 12 points at quarter-time, the Storm began asserting their authority during the second term, kicking four goals to two to hold a slender four-point advantage at half-time.
After its positive start to the match in the first quarter when it took the game on, Golden Square dropped away during the second term as mistakes and turnovers, particularly out of the back half, undid the earlier good work.
While the margin was only four points at half-time as the Storm led 5.8 to 5.4, there were warning bells sounding for the Bulldogs and they only got louder during the third term.
The Bulldogs were held scoreless during the third quarter, while down the other end, the Storm added 2.3 against the breeze.
Both Strathfieldsaye’s goals were kicked by Stephen Milne, who was again one of the major differences between the two sides as he finished with 4.5 against his inter-league team-mate of last month, Clayton Anderson, in what was an entertaining tussle with plenty of niggle.
Trailing by 19 points at three quarter-time, the Bulldogs made an early charge back into the contest and closed to within 12 points in the final term after a goal to James Molinaro - their first for 39 minutes.
Two Bulldogs’ chances later went begging when Hamish Morcom hit the post with a banana and a snap out of a stoppage from Che Walls missed that would have brought the margin back to a kick.
However, Walls’ missed chance at the 16-minute mark was the Bulldogs’ last score of the game as the Storm finished with the final four goals of the match to run away with the win.
The best for the Storm - who kicked 10.13 to 3.4 after quarter-time - were led by Matthew Ladson, who started in defence on the returning Simon Rosa before dominating through the midfield.
Fellow onballers Jake Hall, who battled particularly hard early when Golden Square was on top, Vinnie Flood and Matt Johnston, whose bullocking work in close helped the Storm win the clearances 49-36, Tom Dowd off half-back and Jake Dickens were also prominent.
Ruckman Michael Pilcher and Sean Johns both kicked two goals each for the Storm.
Jones kicked three goals for the Bulldogs to be among their best, with the only time the Golden Square forward line looked genuinely threatening whenever Jones was playing inside 50.
Molinaro, Walls and defender Dale Young, who kept Sam Mildren to one goal, were others to figure among the best players for the Bulldogs, who are now 5-5.
• Match statistics:
Centre clearances: Strathfieldsaye 13; Golden Square 6.
Inside 50s: Strathfieldsaye 51; Golden Square 45.
Stoppages: Strathfieldsaye 36; Golden Square 30.