READ MORE - SATURDAY SCOREBOARD - April 27, 2019
THE Heathcote District league's reigning premiers have been beaten by last year's wooden-spooners after Elmore won its second game in a row by less than a kick on Saturday.
In a major upset at Elmore, the Bloods came from 27 points down at half-time against Leitchville-Gunbower to win by five, 10.12 (72) to 8.19 (67), in the biggest talking point out of round three.
The improved Bloods are now 2-1, already surpassing last year's tally of just one win, while the Bombers - premiers of the past two seasons - are 1-2.
Saturday's five-point victory came on the back of the Bloods beating Huntly in another thriller by three points the previous week.
"In the second half we got back to the style of footy we'd played over the first couple of weeks," Elmore coach Danny Brewster said.
"In the first half we were second to the footy, missing targets and lacking a bit around the contest, but we lifted our pressure in the second half and executed a bit better going inside 50."
The Bloods - missing new gun forward Romain Grenville - trailed 3.6 to 7.9 at half-time, and were still 15 points in arrears at three quarter-time.
However, their 3.6 to 0.4 in the final term was enough to edge out the Bombers, with the goal that gave Elmore the lead for good kicked by James Harney - his fourth.
The Bloods have been on the end of plenty of hidings from Leitchville-Gunbower in recent years - their previous six meetings had been Bombers' wins by 176, 110, 170, 133, 164 and 100 points.
"Today's result gives us a lot of belief and confidence. In years gone past with the score the way it was at times we would have let the game slip away," Brewster said.
"It just shows the hard work everyone has done not only over the pre-season, but the past two years is worth it.
"We were missing a few today, but we've got a lot more depth in the twos now and we trust anyone who comes in to do the job."
One of the standouts for the Bloods was 17-year-old first-gamer Rhys Holmberg.
"He played across half-back and played well beyond his years," Brewster said.
"He was so composed, took some good grabs and in the dying stages really stood up for us."
The Bombers were left to rue their inaccuracy, losing the game despite having five more scoring shots.
They were particularly off target to the Rochester end during the first (3.7) and third (1.6) quarters when they combined for 4.13.
"If you miss the amount of shots that we did, particularly early, then you're going to let the opposition in to have a crack at you, which is exactly what happened," Bombers coach Danny Teskera said.
"We didn't make the most of our opportunities and had enough chances to win the game."
Hard-nut midfielder Matt Pollock was the best for the Bombers, who following last week's 70-point defeat to North Bendigo have now lost two in a row for the first time since the opening two rounds of 2016.
And it gets no easier next week for the Bombers against the red-hot Lockington-Bamawm United in what will be a big weekend as 100 years of football at Leitchville is celebrated.
The early-season Lockington-Bamawm United juggernaut continued, albeit after a sluggish start at home against Huntly.
The Cats trailed the Hawks by 13 points at the first break, but over the final three quarters slammed on 15 goals to two to win 17.12 (114) to 6.8 (44) to now be 4-0 and with their four wins by 70, 35, 136 and 94 points - albeit their season-opening belting of White Hills won't be officially recorded until round 14.
"We definitely didn't play our best footy today. Our second half was okay, but we spoke after the game about Huntly's tackling pressure and work at the contest was the best we've come up against so far," Cats coach Kahl Oliver said.
"We understand that we're becoming one of the teams that other sides are really keen to knock off and we're going to get everything thrown at us and we certainly felt that today.
"But if we're not going to be at our best and still be able to have a 10-goal win then that's a positive."
Recruit Patrick Gardiner was again a strong target in attack for the Cats, booting six goals to now have 18 for the season. Down the other end Rhys Woodland was superb at centre half-back, while Liam Main was also a strong source of drive off half-back.
As well as Gardiner's six goals, the Cats also had Jarod Bacon and Jacob Gardiner slot three each.
Gun Cats' midfielder Nathan Bacon was forced from the ground during the first quarter with a hamstring concern.
The Hawks slipped to 0-3 - a position they haven't been in since last missing the finals in 2014.
Jacob Greenwood and Harry Whittle kicked two goals apiece for the Hawks, who named Travis Mercadante their best player.
Aarryn Craig celebrated his 200th game for North Bendigo with a best-on-ground performance in the Bulldogs' 40-point win over White Hills.
The Bulldogs remained unbeaten and kept the Demons winless with their 14.12 (96) to 8.8 (56) victory at Atkins Street.
"It was a real scrap of a game... White Hills pushed a lot of players back into our forward line. It probably didn't make for a great viewing game, but it made us work hard," Bulldogs coach Matt Dillon said.
"We took a fair bit out of it because sometimes games aren't always 18-on-18. We had to do things a bit differently today, but the pleasing thing was we were challenged a few times and were able to stick with it."
The win come at a cost though for the Bulldogs, with star forward Brady Herdman injuring a hamstring after he had kicked three goals.
The Bulldogs also had Joel Helman battle through the game after hurting an ankle early.
200-gamer Craig was a big possession-winner across half-back for the Bulldogs in their 11th-straight win over White Hills, while Jake Hyland, who along with Mani Thalasinos spent periods of the game opposed to Demons coach Sam Kerridge, was North Bendigo's second best.
Herdman was one of 10 players who kicked goals for the Bulldogs, who have won all 12 quarters they have played so far this year.
Mitch Dole kicked three of White Hills' eight goals, while best for the Demons was veteran David Wright.
Colbinabbin has suffered another injury blow, this time to key on-baller Sam Vale (slipped disc in back).
Vale was forced from the ground in the first quarter of the Grasshoppers' 10.18 (78) to 7.10 (52) win over Heathcote - their 12th in a row against the Saints.
"It was ugly in terms of our game. We struggled to move the ball well, we gave away five 50 metre penalties, three of which cost us goals, and constantly turned the ball over," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
"We were a bit better in the third quarter, but overall, it was a really scrappy and ugly performance."
Midfielder Xavier Walsh (two goals), Ben Southam, who again won plenty of the ball off half-back, and ruckman Hadleigh Sirett were among the better players for the Grasshoppers, who are facing the prospect of being without forward Ryan Hon for the season following his foot injury sustained against LBU the previous week.
The scrappy win improved Colbinabbin to 2-1.
For the Saints, the 26-point margin was a far more competitive scoreline than their opening game of the season when they lost to LBU by 136.
Star recruit Codie Price constantly mopped up across half-back all game to be the best for the Saints, while Darcy McLean also battled hard, with the pair each kicking a goal.
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