SANDHURST and Kangaroo Flat put on a goalkicking masterclass at Beck Legal Oval on Saturday in a free-flowing, entertaining Bendigo Football League shoot-out.
The Dragons prevailed by 23 points - 24.7 (151) to 20.8 (128) - in a game where the two sides combined for a remarkably accurate 44.15 in front of goal.
Sandhurst's accuracy to convert 24 of its 31 scoring shots was a major turnaround on its common theme of missed chances this year, with the Dragons only four times in their 13 games before Saturday kicking more goals than behinds.
The Roos had been bullied by Sandhurst in their previous three encounters against the Dragons, during which they had lost by ugly margins of 107, 120 and 122 points, but they made it clear from the outset on Saturday they wouldn't be pushed around this time.
They attacked the Dragons with the tackling pressure and intensity befitting of a side that is fighting to secure a rare finals berth and controlled the centre square early with the first four clearances.
Having kicked just four goals against the Dragons in round five, the Roos already had four on the board at quarter-time as they trailed by seven points, 5.3 to 4.2.
The Dragons kicked four of their five first quarter-goals in a five-minute burst in time-on, and when Joel Wharton added the first of the second term, they were out by 13 points.
However, the Roos responded in style and for one of the few times this season, the Dragons were unable to halt the flow of opposition goals as Kangaroo Flat slammed on five in a row in a seven-minute blitz from co-captain Tim Brooks, Corbin Fleming, Matt Giri, Simon Davies and Billy White.
Brodie Montague halted the Roos' run to kick Sandhurst's seventh goal, but when Fleming and Giri added two more, a boilover loomed as Kangaroo Flat kicked out to a 22-point lead at the 19-minute mark, 11.2 to 7.4.
The Dragons responded with the last two goals of the quarter through Ryan Haythorpe - who had four by the main break - and Ryan Maldenis to trim the deficit to nine points at half-time.
The third quarter was an enthralling battle of end-to-end football as the two sides traded goals in a term where the lead changed seven times.
The Dragons appeared poised to take control of the contest when they kicked four of the first five goals of the quarter in the opening 10 minutes to lead by nine points.
But there was no denting the spirit of the tenacious Roos, who continued to serve it right up to their more fancied opponents, with one of their five goals for the quarter a classic from the classy Giri tucked up on the boundary.
As the scores continued to pile on, both sides had already passed the 100-mark by three quarter-time as the Dragons held a slender one-point lead, 16.6 to 16.5.
With the stage set for a thrilling final quarter, it was the Dragons who gained the upper hand in the middle - winning the centre breaks 8-2 - to finally kick away.
The Dragons capitalised on their dominance out of the middle, kicking eight goals to four in the final term to win a rare match where both sides kicked at least 20 goals.
The Roos were hurt in the last quarter when Maldenis gave Sandhurst a seven-point lead when he converted courtesy of a 50m penalty, while Haythorpe later extended the margin to 18 points when he goaled after a Kangaroo Flat error deep in defence.
"Kangaroo Flat was very impressive and really took it up to us, but I was really pleased in the last quarter-and-a-half with the way our midfielders took ownership and moved the ball well into our big targets in Ryan Haythorpe and Ben Anderson," Dragons coach Brett Fitzpatrick said.
The Dragons had 11 goalkickers, led by Haythorpe (seven), who didn't miss, Maldenis (three), captain Blair Holmes (three) and Ben Anderson (three, all in the second half).
The best for the Dragons - who lost top spot on the ladder on percentage to Strathfieldsaye - included ball-winners Holmes, Nick Stagg, Montague and Lee Coghlan and forward Haythorpe.
There was a scare for the Dragons late in the first term when star ruckman Tim Martin limped off the ground with a sore ankle, but he returned in the second quarter and played the game out.
While the Roos were beaten, despite having seven more inside 50s, coach Jason Stevens said there were plenty of positives his young side would take from the contest with one of the benchmark teams.
"It was certainly a lot better effort than the first time we played Sandhurst (107-point loss in round five)," Stevens said.
"We were right in the contest all day, but they were just a bit cleaner on the outside of the stoppage. But we certainly know now that we're capable of challenging those sides up the top of the ladder."
The major goalkickers for the Roos - who for the second time this season kicked a losing score above 120 - were Giri's six and four to Brooks.
Giri and Brooks were among the Roos' best players, along with ruckman Nick Lang, Jack Bowyer across half-back and forward Corbin Fleming (two goals).
Before Kangaroo Flat's score of 128 on Saturday, the previous highest score the Dragons had conceded this season was 80.
• Match stats:
Centre clearances: Sandhurst 24; Kangaroo Flat 18.
Inside 50s: Sandhurst 44; Kangaroo Flat 51.
Stoppages: Sandhurst 24; Kangaroo Flat 20.