Leitchville-Gunbower ends North Bendigo's unbeaten run in Heathcote District league season

PLAYED WELL: Ryan Prendergast was among Leitchville-Gunbower's best players in Saturday's win over North Bendigo. Picture: DARREN HOWE

PLAYED WELL: Ryan Prendergast was among Leitchville-Gunbower's best players in Saturday's win over North Bendigo. Picture: DARREN HOWE

LEITCHVILLE-Gunbower inflicted North Bendigo’s biggest loss in the Heathcote District league since 2013 on Saturday as it ended the Bulldogs’ unblemished run this season.

In the 1 v 2 clash at Gunbower the Bombers kept the Bulldogs goalless during the second and third quarters on the way to a 50-point win – 13.13 (91) to 6.5 (41).

The ladder-leading Bulldogs had started the day one game, plus 43 per cent ahead of the Bombers.

With two rounds left the two power sides are now separated by just 12 per cent, with the Bombers having given themselves a sniff of finishing in top spot.

For two sides that had gone into the match averaging a combined 301 points for per game, goals were hard to come by in the first half as the Bombers led 2.6 to 2.3 at the main break.

Earlier, North Bendigo kicked the only two goals of the first term through Zach Alford to lead 2.1 to 0.2 at quarter-time.

However, the Bulldogs were held to just 0.3 through the second and third quarters, while the Bombers added 8.8 to build a 42-point advantage at the final change.

“We know North had a number of players out, but they still had their best midfielders playing and it was pleasing that we were able to win that battle,” Bombers coach Matt Hawken said.

“I thought we won all the midfield positions apart from Tyson Findlay, who was very good for them.

“It was a brutal game… there were four goals kicked in the first half, a lot of stoppages and tackling and I thought we held up really well, particularly from halfway through the second quarter and during the third when we really dominated.

“A number of our runners like Tim Lincoln and Adam Decicco, who copped a big hit early, started to get their hands on the ball during that second quarter and we were able to generate some entries into our forward half.”

Among the best players for the Bombers were the consistent Matt Ladson, Logan Prout, defender Ryan Prendergast, ruckman Lee Pollock, and Shaun Turvey, who had a run-with role on Aarryn Craig. Matt Perri kicked five goals to take his season tally to 93.

The much-vaunted North Bendigo forward line was left with just Darcy Richards as its key target through the absence of the injured Sam Barnes, Brady Herdman, Rhys Ford, Joel Helman and captain Jordan Ford, who was a late withdrawal.

The Bulldogs’ score of 41 was more than 100 points less than what their season average of 154 had been going into the game.

“I thought our first half was excellent and the boys carried out everything I asked of them before the game,” North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.

“But we lost Dan Morris (shoulder) during the second quarter, Jarrod Findlay was a bit sore and I felt it was always going to be hard to sustain what we had done in the first half.

“Leitchville opened us up in the third third quarter, which was disappointing, but I was pleased with the way we finished.”

The Bulldogs kicked four of their six goals in the final term in their biggest loss since they were beaten by 66 points by Huntly in the 2013 preliminary final.

The best for the Bulldogs featured Alford, Tyson Findlay – who for the first time this season didn’t kick a goal – and Nick Waterson.

With the Bulldogs – who had won 16 in a row stretching back to last year’s finals – having been beaten, it ensures Heathcote of 2010 will maintain its status for at least another year as the last team to go through a Heathcote District league season undefeated.

• Colbinabbin scraped past White Hills by five points thanks to a late goal to Ryan Hon.

The Demons led inside the last two minutes of the game, but their bid for a first win over the Grasshoppers since 2011 was thwarted when Hon kicked a goal from 30m to deliver Colbinabbin a 11.10 (76) to 11.5 (71) victory at home.

There was little between the two sides all game – scores were level at quarter-time, the Demons led by five points at half-time and the Grasshoppers were four points in front at three quarter-time, before the final margin of five points.

“We dodged a big bullet today… full credit to White Hills, they played better than us over the four quarters, but we were fortunate to be in front at the end,” Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight said.

“They were very tricky conditions with a howling wind going to the clubrooms end that we just didn’t adapt to and we played some really dumb footy at times. We won ugly, but it’s a win.”

Hon’s match-winning goal was one of two he kicked in the final quarter for the Grasshoppers, who for the second time in three games won a thriller at home by a kick. A fortnight earlier they beat Huntly by six points.

“Last year those types of games didn’t go our way. We weren’t able to stand up in crunch times, but this year we’ve shown we are better in those situations,” said Knight, who kicked four goals.

Daniel Hill in defence, Josh Hamilton off half-back and Knight were the best for the Grasshoppers.

The loss was the Demons’ fourth in a row, but coach Brent Millar said it was a step forward from the previous week’s 39-point defeat to LBU.

“The effort and our defensive pressure was really good today and we had our opportunities to win the game,” Millar said.

“The boys had a real crack, but good teams when it counts stand up and Colbo was able to do that today.”

Jasper Ibbeson-Coatsworth gave the Demons plenty of contested grunt to be White Hills’ best player, while Doolan Nihill (two goals) and Sean Christopher in defence were also among the top performers.

Meanwhile, the under-17 game was abandoned in the second quarter and declared a draw after Grasshopper James McTaggart was injured in a tackle.

McTaggart was taken to Bendigo Hospital and released later on Saturday.

• Harry Whittle and Chris Gleeson combined for 15 goals as Huntly returned to the winner’s list, defeating Mount Pleasant by 121 points at Toolleen.

Whittle booted eight goals and Gleeson slotted seven in the Hawks’ 24.15 (159) to 5.8 (38) belting.

“We were pleased with today… we tried a few different things looking to get ourselves right for finals and we’re happy with how we’re coming along,” Huntly co-coach Jamie Hogan said.

“Mounts were under-manned today, but they certainly didn’t make it easy for us and the boys had to work hard.”

Whittle, Ross Culvenor, Gleeson and co-coach Ryan Semmel (four goals) were the best for the Hawks.

While the Blues only managed five goals, it was an improvement on round seven against the Hawks when they were held to just 0.2.

Adam Richardson was again named best for the Blues, who had Mitchell Keuken in his first senior game for the club and Thomas Bickley in his second also play well.

• Elmore had three less scoring shots than Heathcote, but beat the Saints by 27 points at home.

The Bloods won their third game of the season with the 14.11 (95) to 8.20 (68) victory.

“We had to fight it right out, but it was a good all-round performance,” said Elmore coach Danny Brewster (two goals).

“Heathcote had more scoring shots than us, but we forced them to take a lot of shots from where they didn’t want to, whereas we were able to get the ball where we wanted to more often.”

Nathan Brewster was again superb in defence to be the best for the Bloods, while Joseph Harney in a new role on the wing was also prominent. James Harney kicked four goals.

The Saints’ inaccuracy included kicking 2.6 in the second quarter and 0.9 in the last when they had the breeze.

Heathcote’s three most consistent players this season in Darcy McLean, Dylan McCutcheon and Jake Condon were again the Saints’ best.