BRIDGEWATER brushed off another would-be challenger on Saturday, cruising past Newbridge by 73 points in their Loddon Valley Football League match.
The Mean Machine kicked 15 goals to three after quarter-time to win 17.20 (122) to 6.13 (49) against a Maroons side that had gone into the game sitting third.
In six games against their four fellow sides that are finals bound - Pyramid Hill, Newbridge, Marong and Bears Lagoon-Serpentine - the Mean Machine have now won them all by 76, 40, 84, 72, 59 and 73 points as they continue their assault on a fifth flag in a row.
The Maroons started well to lead by 10 points at quarter-time at Bridgewater.
Newbridge’s 3.6 to 2.2 advantage at quarter-time was only the second time this year the Mean Machine has trailed at any of the breaks.
However, after the game was a contest early, Bridgewater stepped up a gear and the Maroons were unable to go with their arch-rivals.
From 10 points down at quarter-time, the Mean Machine quickly erased the deficit, adding five goals to one in the second term to build a 19-point lead at the main break.
The Mean Machine then finished with 10 goals to two after half-time in a game where the wind played havoc with the accuracy of both sides, which combined for 23.33.
"Our pressure and effort was good for the first half, but our turnovers and decision-making cost us after half-time when we really dropped away," Newbridge coach Matt Dillon said.
"We gave them back too much easy footy when we were under pressure.
"We were really flat after half-time and didn't show the same endeavour as we did in the first half, which was disappointing because we had showed we could match it with them.
"We're showing patches, but not enough over the full length of a game."
Having at one stage sat second on the ladder with a 6-1 record, the Maroons have now dropped three of their past four games to slip to fourth position.
"We've been flat the past month and the bye this week should come at a good time for us and hopefully, allow us to get five or six back next game," Dillon said.
"I'm still confident that if we can get all our players on the park we'll have a handy side, but there's no excuse for what we've dished up the past few weeks.
"When we're missing blokes we need others to come in and step up."
Key defender Daniel Nalder, half-back Luke Harrison, Deon Jones and Harry Symons were the standouts for the undefeated Mean Machine, who had Zeb Broadbent (four), Andrew Mead-Harding (three) and Brad Rohde (three) all kick at least three goals.
Newbridge's better players were led by ruckman Joshua White, consistent midfielder Jordan Gilboy and Jack Fowler across half-back.
.• Marong survived a scare from Mitiamo, holding off the Superoos by two points in another tight game between the two sides at Marong Links Oval.
The Panthers narrowly avoided becoming the first top-five team to lose to a bottom-four side this year when they won the closest match of the season, 14.13 (97) to 14.11 (95), in what was a victory that elevated them into the top three.
The Superoos fell just short of what would have been their third win of the season after trailing by 24 points at three quarter-time.
"We knew it was a real danger game for us. We missed some opportunities in the second quarter to get on top and we couldn't capitalise," Marong coach Corey Gregg said.
"But full credit to Mitiamo. They played well and didn't allow us to play the footy we expect of ourselves, but it was good to grind out a win on a day when things didn't go our way."
For the fourth game in a row, midfielder Craig Morris was the best player for the Panthers.
"He's just a star. He got a lot of the ball again today, but the only thing he didn't do today was finish off his chances in front of goal," Gregg said.
As well as Morris, Gregg again played well across half-back, while Brett Rogers (three goals), Jake Boyer and ruckman Chris Morgan (two goals) were also prominent as Marong improved to 8-3.
Daniel Turcarelli kicked two goals and is now the only player in the LVFL this year to have kicked a goal in every game their team has played.
Terrence Reeves (three goals), James Drake, Jarad Webster and Spike Ingley were named the best for the Superoos, who for the third time in a row against Marong lost by 13 points or less.
.• YCW won its third game of the season, defeating Calivil United by 10 points at Raywood.
The Eagles kicked the lowest winning score of the season in prevailing 9.7 (61) to 7.9 (51) in a game they led at every change.
"It wasn't our most glamorous win, but I was really pleased with the way we went about it," YCW coach Pat Jess said.
"We were challenged in every quarter when we allowed them to get a bit of a run-on, but we fought back each time to keep our noses in front.
"We were patchy at times, but overall, our effort was enough to get us over the line."
David Millard continued his outstanding form in the midfield to be the Eagles' best player.
Ryan Walker, Shaun White and ruckman Adrian Cronin were others to influence the contest, while Daine Lowry kicked three goals.
Calivil United - which played in the old maroon and gold guernsey of Northern United for its annual heritage game - had good contributors in Henry Miller, Alex Davis, Caleb Smith and ruckman Justin Hynes. Jake Lawry kicked three of the Demons' seven goals.
• Inglewood's season of misery continued as it copped a 143-point hammering from Bears Lagoon-Serpentine.
The Blues competed with the Bears early, only trailing by three points at quarter-time, 3.5 to 3.2.
However, the Bears piled on 23.10 to 1.2 after quarter-time to win 26.15 (171) to 4.4 (28) in what was the Blues' fifth loss of the season by more than 100 points.
"They had a real crack at us early in the game, but we were able to play a good brand of team football after quarter-time with a good spread," Bears coach Damien Featherby said.
Nathan McNally, Josh Shaw, Josh Martyn (six goals) and Brodie Leonard-Shannon (three goals) led the rout for the Bears, who had 12 goalkickers in the win.
Jye Bryan kicked three of Inglewood's four goals. Brett Wilson and Josh Essex were the best for the Blues.
"We took the game on in the first quarter, but they were just too good for us for the rest of the day," Blues coach Isaac Douthie said.