North Bendigo flexes muscle in 68-point belting of Leitchville-Gunbower

ON paper it promised plenty – the two unbeaten grand finalists from last season both in red-hot form reigniting their rivalry on Saturday.

GOTCHA: North Bendigo's Jarrod Findlay lays a tackle on Leitchville-Gunbower's Hoby Bussey in the grand final rematch. Picture: DARREN HOWE

GOTCHA: North Bendigo's Jarrod Findlay lays a tackle on Leitchville-Gunbower's Hoby Bussey in the grand final rematch. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The reality, though, was North Bendigo only further enhanced its status as the unstoppable force of the Heathcote District league with a comfortable 68-point win over Leitchville-Gunbower at home.

The rampaging Bulldogs coasted to a 23.13 (151) to 12.11 (83) victory as they handed the Bombers their biggest loss since 2012.

“It’s a satisfying result in the way we played today. Everything we spoke about that we wanted to do within the game we did, so that was pleasing,” Bulldogs coach Rob Bennett said.

The reigning premier Bulldogs wasted no time making their mark on the contest, leading by 30 points at quarter-time, 7.2 to 2.2, after kicking with the wind in the first term.

North then extended its advantage at every break, leading by 39 at half-time and 60 at three quarter-time, before the final margin of 68 points in what was a result that saw the Bombers drop their percentage by 99.

“We had spoken before the game that if we were to get ourselves in a position to get a bit of a break on them that we didn’t want to take the foot off and to keep grinding away and turn it into a good win,” Bennett said.

The Bulldogs’ 23 goals were scored by a spread of 15 players, with only Brady Herdman (three) kicking more than two.

“There’s a lot of focus on our three big forwards (Herdman, Sam Barnes and Rhys Ford), but the load was spread and again, that was a really pleasing part about today,” Bennett said.

Ash Craig, who shut out Bombers’ gun Matthew Ladson and won plenty of the ball himself, Brett Strange, who rucked one-out all day, Herdman and Alex Shipard, who played on star Bombers’ forward Matt Perri (four goals) were North Bendigo’s best players.

The Bulldogs – who lost Darcy Richards (medial) early in the game – also named Joel Helman, in his first game against Leitchville-Gunbowe, in their best.

“Joel’s first quarter in particular really set the tone for the rest of the game. He kicked two ripper goals from outside 50 that really lifted the boys and his attack on the footy was sensational,” Bennett said.

The Bombers named ruckman Lee Pollock, Jack Dye (three goals) and Adam Decicco their best trio.

“Our second quarter was probably the most disappointing part of the game. We got our hands on the footy and were playing well, but couldn’t put any scoreboard pressure on,” Bombers coach Matt Hawken said.

BEST ON GROUND: North Bendigo's Ash Craig was pivotal in the Bulldogs' 68-point hiding of Leitchville-Gunbower on Saturday. Picture: DARREN HOWE

BEST ON GROUND: North Bendigo's Ash Craig was pivotal in the Bulldogs' 68-point hiding of Leitchville-Gunbower on Saturday. Picture: DARREN HOWE

“Against a quality side like North you’ve just got to take every opportunity you get and we didn’t do that.

“They certainly won the midfield battle today, used the ball really well and were just too good on the day.”

• Mount Pleasant endured one of its darkest days after it was on the end of a horror scoreline against Huntly.

The Blues failed to kick a goal, while Huntly had 48 scoring shots as the Hawks produced their best performance of the season so far with the 18.30 (138) to 0.2 (2) rout at home.

Mount Pleasant is the first team in the Heathcote District league to end a senior game goalless since Huntly was held to 0.4 against Lockington-Bamawm United in round four, 2003.

“There was a lack of intensity at the ball today, we didn’t want to tackle, didn’t want to chase, didn’t want to man up… we didn’t want to do anything,” said Mount Pleasant coach Matt Johnson, who was forced to pull out in the warm-up after injuring his calf, leaving the Blues one player short.

“We had two inside-50s and 10 tackles in the first half, so that pretty much sums the game up for us.

“It’s the most disappointing day I’ve had in my involvement with Mount Pleasant, which goes back a while now.”

As well as the Blues – who scored one point in the first quarter and one in the second – having no goalkickers, the club also named no players in its best.

While the Hawks won by 136 points, they could have inflicted much more hurt on the woeful Blues had they been able to kick straight, particularly in the first and fourth quarters when they scored 1.7 and 6.12.

Phil Ryan, Jacob Greenwood (two goals) and skipper Stacy Fiske led the best players for the Hawks, who had co-coach Ryan Semmel and Chris Gleeson kick three goals apiece.

The Hawks, who replaced Mount Pleasant in fifth position with their third win, importantly improved their percentage from 65.2 to 88.0, while the Blues’ dropped from 73.8 to 57.8.

• Colbinabbin bounced back from two losses in a row to record a crucial away win over White Hills.

The Grasshoppers drew level on four wins with the Demons with their 15.13 (103) to 10.8 (68) victory as they beat White Hills for the 11th-straight time.

“It was a big game for both clubs today. I set the challenge before the game and the boys responded really well with what was probably our best footy of the season so far,” Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight said.

The Grasshoppers, who led at every change, made their move during the second quarter when they added 3.4 to 0.1 to lead by 29 points at half-time.

Knights’ coaching adversary was the Demons’ Brent Millar, came up against the Grasshoppers, who he coached to the 2008 flag, for the first time since taking over at the Demons.

“We knew Funky (Millar) is a very smart operator and that he’d have the plans in place with how we would want to play. But full credit to our boys as we stuck to our plan and executed really well,” Knight said.

Consistent on-baller Sam Vale, Pat O’Brien off half-back and the returning Seth Hill in defence led the way for the Grasshoppers, who had Ryan Hon and Alex Van Ruiswyk kick three goals each.

The Demons were best served by Jake Dickens, Jake Ward and ruckman Lachlan Sidebottom.

• For the first time since 2013 Heathcote has won two games in a row.

The Saints backed up last week’s win over Mount Pleasant with a 15.19 (109) to 11.15 (81) triumph at home over Elmore, which was coming off a 21-day break.

Such has been the improvement in the Saints and drop-off of the Bloods this year, the result was a 118-point turnaround on their previous meeting in round 10 last season.

“It’s a great result for the boys to have a couple of wins in a row and is vindicating that they are putting in the hard work and getting the results,” Saints coach Luke Bell said.

Bell and Jake Condon both kicked four goals and were the Saints’ best two, while on-baller Jack Paisley (two goals) played another good game.

James Harney and Luke Price kicked three goals each for the Bloods, who lost their fourth game in a row.