NORTH Bendigo was forced to dig deep against Huntly on Saturday to keep intact its unblemished record in the Heathcote District league.
The Bulldogs have an air of invincibility about them, but it was seriously challenged by the gallant Hawks, who trailed by one point during the last term.
However, the Bulldogs responded to their first legitimate challenge this season by pulling away late to win 13.18 (96) to 12.10 (82) at Huntly.
The 14-point margin was in stark contrast to their round two meeting when the Bulldogs had demolished the Hawks by 149 points.
“We’ll get a lot of belief out of today… I was really happy with the effort of the boys, but when the game was there to be won North was the class side,” Huntly co-coach Jamie Hogan said.
“We’re obviously not happy with a loss, but we’ll take plenty of positives.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have Stacy Fiske, Luke Semmel and Jack Burns after half-time, so we didn’t have the rotations we needed and that had a bearing on the result. But full credit to North… they are a class side and when the game was there to be won, they did it better than us.”
The Hawks made a positive start to the game to lead by 18 points at quarter-time, 5.3 to 2.3, in what was the first time North Bendigo has been headed at any break this season.
However, the Bulldogs lifted in the second term with their best period of the game when they kicked 6.2 to 1.3 to hold an 11-point advantage at half-time – well shy of the average 56 points they had been in front by at the main break in their first nine games.
“We won ugly today and probably the only positive for us was that we were in front on the scoreboard,” North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.
“Today was probably our worst team performance of the year, but that’s taking nothing away from Huntly.
“They out-contested us around the stoppages early and out-spread us, but our guys fought well late when challenged. “
Gun forward Brady Herdman (two goals) suffered a hamstring strain for the Bulldogs, whose best two players were captain Jordan Ford, back from injury, and Will Gunter in defence.
The Hawks rated ruckman Rhett Sutton and the consistent Phil Ryan their best two players, while Harry Whittle was the game’s leading goalkicker with five.
• Lockington-Bamawm United is off the bottom of the ladder after winning its second game in a row in a two-point thriller against Elmore.
Daniel Zegelin, capitalising on the hard work of captain Marcus Angove, kicked the last goal of the game to give the Cats a hard-fought 12.10 (82) to 13.2 (80) victory at Elmore.
Having also beaten Mount Pleasant last week, it’s the first time the Cats have won back-to-back games since 2015.
“From a coaching point of view I was really pleased with the way the boys kept attacking and running and didn’t drop their heads when we got headed in time-on of the last quarter,” Cats coach Peter Gibbs said.
“It’s good to see that we’ve got a lot of young guys who are really stepping up.”
Zeik Johnston kicked four goals to be one of the Cats’ best, along with midfielder Meyrick Buchanan (two goals), who again racked up a swag of possessions, and Nathan Dyson (two goals) up forward and in the ruck.
Elmore coach Danny Brewster proved a handful for the Cats’ defence by kicking seven goals.
“LBU deserved their win… they played four quarters and we only played three,” Brewster said.
“We couldn’t get our hands on the ball in the second quarter (outscored 4.0 to 1.0) and in the end that has cost us the game.”
Matt Gilmour, who applied plenty of pressure through the midfield, was the best for the Bloods, who outscored the Cats in all but the second term.
• The ladder has a rare look to it, with Mount Pleasant tumbling to the bottom after suffering a 132-point belting from Colbinabbin.
The Grasshoppers recorded their biggest win of the season with the 25.17 (167) to 5.5 (35) victory at Toolleen – the 12th game this year decided by a triple-figure margin.
“I was very happy with the performance. We were able to play four consistent quarters of footy and limit the lapses we’ve had over the past few weeks,” Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight said.
The Grasshoppers didn’t the foot off the throat of their old rivals, finishing with an eight-goal final quarter.
Damien Carmody (seven), Ryan Hon (five) and Knight (four) combined for 16 goals for the Grasshoppers, whose best was Nat Nixon through the midfield, while Knight was also pleased with the efforts of Jordan Wilson, Mitch McEvoy (two goals) and Will Lowe.
Nick Edwards and Adam Richardson battled hard for the Blues, who didn’t score in the third quarter.
• White Hills has built a three-game buffer inside the top five after defeating Heathcote by 66 points.
The Demons, who were off-target in front of goal, won 15.25 (115) to 7.7 (49) at Heathcote – their eighth-straight against the Saints.
“We got back to playing some good team footy today,” White Hills coach Brent Millar said.
“There were still times when we weren’t great, but overall we looked after each other a lot more, which had been our big focus.”
The Demons held the Saints goalless in the first half as they led 8.11 to 0.4 at the main break.
Midfielder Levi Middleton again starred and defender Jake Dickens, who is putting together a fine season, led the way for the Demons.
Heathcote was best served by Dylan McCutcheon and Darcy McLean. Alex McIvor kicked three goals.