NORTH Bendigo again showed its top-of-the-ladder class in the Heathcote District Football League on Saturday, downing Leitchville-Gunbower by 48 points.
A week after beating second-placed Lockington-Bamawm United, this time the Bulldogs knocked over the third-positioned Bombers 12.14 (86) to 4.14 (38) at Superior Roofing Oval.
Of the Bombers' four goals, they kicked two of them in the dying minutes of the match.
The win was the Bulldogs' 13th in a row and kept them two games clear at the top of the ladder with one round remaining.
The Bulldogs were 27 points up at half-time, but the Bombers had enough chances to be right in the game at the long break.
The Bombers kicked just 1.8 from their nine scoring shots in the first half, while the Bulldogs were more efficient with their return of 6.5.
"We had our plans going into the game and for probably 70 per cent of the match the boys stuck to them," Bombers co-coach Rob Bennett said.
"Leitchville had their chances in the first half and we were lucky they weren't kicking straight, but having said that, we finished with 12.14, so we could have been better as well.
"We knew Leitchville would come hard at us trying to sew up that top spot, but we were able to weather it."
Ryan Alford, who has had a strong past month, veteran ruckman Tony Plim, Ryan Gow and Jeremy Mills (two goals) were the pick of the players for the Bulldogs, who in their two games against the Bombers this year have conceded just nine goals.
The Bombers' woeful accuracy in front of goal continues a recent trend, with the side now having scored 22.42 in its past three games.
"We had plenty of footy in the first half, but just couldn't put the goals through," Bombers coach Marty Shadbolt said.
"We kicked 1.5 in the second quarter, but had we put a few of those through we would have been right in the game at half-time, so it was disappointing we didn't take our chances, especially against a good side like North Bendigo."
Shadbolt was the best for the Bombers, along with ruckman Cameron Ross, Jake Truefeldt and Russell Lee.
The Bombers - who lost Joel Donehue (knee) in the second quarter - retain third spot on percentage from Mount Pleasant, which had the bye at the weekend.
• White Hills crunched Elmore by 119 points in a result that should be enough to send the Demons into the finals.
The Demons won 25.21 (171) to 7.10 (52) at Tint-a-Car Oval in what's a result that keeps them fifth - one game and 14.6 per cent clear of the chasing Colbinabbin.
White Hills produced a remarkable display of goalkicking in the first half, booting 17.4 from their 21 shots as they built a 69-point lead at the long break.
However, the Demons lost their goalkicking radar dramatically after half-time when they finished with 8.17.
"The only disappointing thing today was the way we converted after half-time," Demons coach Shaun Makepeace said.
"But we needed to post a big score and our first half set us up to do that. The most pleasing thing abut today is we're back to playing some good footy."
White Hills' centre half-forward Jake Ward was unstoppable in the air with his marking and kicked four goals to complement Ricky Symes (five), who now leads the HDFL goalkicking with 54, and Matt Sawyer (four).
In the Demons' second win by more than 100 points over Elmore this season, they also had good players in Hayden Wright (two goals), Anthony Symes and Gavin Bowles (three goals).
Elmore kicked five of its seven goals in the first half, with the better players for the Bloods including Ben Henderson, Jack Hayes and Benjamin Smith.
• A nine-goal haul from livewire small forward Linton Jacobs propelled Colbinabbin to a 78-point win at home over Heathcote.
The Grasshoppers kicked their biggest score since 2011 in the 20.12 (132) to 8.6 (54) victory.
"We were happy to kick 20 goals, but we wanted to keep Heathcote down to about three to give our percentage the boost it needs," Colbinabbin coach Phil Morgan said.
"But full credit to Heathcote, they kicked eight goals and showed a lot of spirit. The ground was heavy and it was hard to break the game open, but we eventually did in the second half."
Jacobs' nine goals followed his six against White Hills last round.
While Jacobs was the standout for the Grasshoppers, they also had strong performers in Ricky Welch, Julian Bull and Chris Guinane.
It was an emotional day for both the Grasshoppers and Heathcote following the tragic death eight days earlier of Colbinabbin 2013 under-17 premiership player Lewis Morgan.
Both teams observed a minute's silence before the game in memory of Lewis.
"It was pretty ironic we were playing Heathcote because Lewis' mother, Megan, is a Tobin and has a really strong connection with Heathcote," Morgan said.
"There were a lot of people from both clubs who came out to support the family."
The 78-point defeat brings an end to the season for Heathcote, which has the bye in the last round.
In what's the first year they have missed the finals since 2004, the Saints end the season with one win, 14 losses and a draw.
"From a club point of view, we're obviously disappointed we're not playing finals for the first time in 10 years," said Grant Ford, who is stepping down as Saints coach after two seasons.
"But we've developed a lot of young kids and had guys like Kyle Seidel, Jakob Sesto and Mitch McLean who have all come up and done their job and will be good players in years to come.
"When the club looks back on this year, I'm sure they'll be thankful we've done that."
McLean and Sesto were both in the Saints' best players on Saturday, along with another young player in Charles Davies, while Seidel kicked two goals.
• Huntly was unable to make it three wins in a row, going down to Lockington-Bamawm United by 19 points at home.
The Hawks started well to lead by seven points at quarter-time, 4.3 to 3.2.
But the Cats assumed control of the contest with five goals to two in the second quarter and were able to hold the Hawks at bay for the rest of the game as they won 14.17 (101) to 12.10 (82).
"We missed quite a few opportunities, which allowed them to stay in the game, but we were able to get over the line in the end," said Cats coach Adrian Dohnt, who played his first game back from a fractured leg.
"We were a bit slow out of the blocks, but the boys worked really hard when they didn't have the ball after quarter-time and were really good with their defensive work around the contest, which was pleasing."
Rhys Woodland, who started in the ruck before pushing forward, kicked three goals for the Cats to be their best player.
Tall Chris Hudson played another top game, Kahl Oliver presented well and kicked four goals, while half-back Simon Keleher was his usual consistent self.
Ryley Dickens, young gun Harry Whittle - who has had a superb season - Ryan Harris and Matthew Jeffries were the top performers for the Hawks, who had Lachlan O'Toole kick three goals.