The Rural Bank Bendigo Pioneers fell 17 points short of winning their fourth game of the TAC Cup season on Sunday.
An injection of high quality talent - Jarrod Brander, Jye Caldwell, Paddy Dow, Brent Daniels – helped the Pioneers, but it wasn’t enough for the club to get over the line against the Gippsland Power in Ballarat.
The Pioneers led by three points at the final change, but the Power added 6.4 to 3.2 in the last quarter to win 13.11 (89) to 10.12 (72).
A wayward second quarter put the Pioneers on the back foot.
The Pioneers had plenty of the ball against their higher-rated opponent, but could only manage 1.7 for the second term and went into half-time trailing by 16 points.
The third quarter was one of the Pioneers’ best for the season.
They defended strongly and took advantage of their midfield dominance to add 4.3 to 1.2 for the quarter.
The Pioneers had a narrow lead and all the momentum heading into the final term.
However, Gippsland grabbed back the lead and the momentum when it kicked three goals in the first four minutes of the final quarter.
The Pioneers bounced back with goals to Caldwell and Dow to cut the deficit to six points.
Gippsland steadied the ship with its fourth goal of the quarter, but Daniels replied for Bendigo one minute later.
However, that was to be the last goal of the game for the Pioneers as the Power kicked the final two goals of the game to win by 17 points.
Golden Square’s Caldwell, who is still eligible to play under-18 football next year, showed his class through the midfield to be Bendigo’s best player.
Dow, from Swan Hill, won plenty of the ball and didn’t do his top-10 AFL National Draft prospects any harm.
Austin Mertz and Darby Henderson were again solid for the Pioneers.
Brander kicked two goals in his first game for the Pioneers this year and was also in the team’s best players.
The bottom-of-the-ladder Pioneers finish the TAC Cup season with games against Oakleigh next Saturday and the Greater Western Victoria Rebels on September 2. Both matches are in Melbourne.
The top eight heading into round 17 is: Geelong 52, Oakleigh 52, Dandenong 44, Sandringham 40, Murray 40, Eastern 36, Northern 26, Gippsland 24.