HALFWAY through the second quarter of Saturday's BFNL clash at Canterbury Park the warning bells were sounding for Eaglehawk.
Just like round one the Hawks had again allowed Strathfieldsaye to get the jump on the scoreboard, with the Storm skipping out to a 28-point advantage and looking on the verge of busting the contest open.
Yet the last 10 minutes of the second term proved the start of a stirring comeback from the reigning premier Hawks, who after conceding five of the first six goals of the game then kicked 13 of the last 19 to inflict the first loss of the season on the Storm.
The Hawks didn't hit the front for the first time until the 11-minute mark of the final term through a set-shot goal to Ben McPhee, but once they did were able to maintain the lead for the remainder of the match to record a 14.14 (98) to 11.14 (80) victory in their most significant win of the season.
And it also reaffirmed just how difficult Canterbury Park is for visiting teams to win at, with it the third year in a row the Storm have been beaten at the Hawks' fortress.
The Hawks' winning score of 98 was more than double the meagre average of just 47 the Storm had conceded in their opening nine games.
"We're not getting too carried away with the result... it's obviously great for our confidence and we'll just look to keep getting better," Eaglehawk coach Travis Matheson said.
It was a win full of grit and determination from the Hawks given the scoreboard obstacles they had to overcome during the match between the grand finalists of the past two seasons.
Not only did the Hawks trail by as many as 28 points in the second quarter, but after closing the gap to six at half-time they again found themselves down by 21 at the 20-minute mark of the third term.
But just like the second quarter, the Hawks finished the third term with the momentum to trim the deficit to one point at the final change.
The Storm then kicked the crucial first goal of the the final term through Lachlan Sharp, but the Hawks refused to yield and controlled the last 20 minutes, kickstarted by Clayton Holmes in the ruck and the work of their midfield brigade to control the centre square.
The Hawks' forward pressure was superb late in the game as they kicked the final four goals of the match through Sam Harper, who provided plenty of spark playing forward and midfield, McPhee, Sean Williams and Jesse Collins to clinch a superb victory.
Eaglehawk's forward pressure was epitomised by Williams' goal that put the Hawks eight points up coming from a holding the ball free kick as the Storm looked set to clear from the defensive 50 and launch an attacking foray.
The Hawks had been smashed out of the middle early as the Storm led the centre clearances 5-0 at quarter-time.
But by match-end the Hawks held the upper hand 17-12, including 5-1 in the final term, while the inside-50 count finished even at 48 apiece.
Williams (three), Gedd Hommelhoff (three), who was the Hawks' best, McPhee (two) and the opportunistic Riley Saunders (two) were all lively inside 50 for the Hawks, combining for 10 goals between them.
Down the other end Oscar Madden did a superb job in blanketing Storm star Sharp.
Sharp was held to his lowest tally of the season - two goals - one of which showcased his freakish skill early in the game when he smothered the ball, scooped it up and drilled it from 35m tucked up on the boundary.
Fellow forwards Lachlan Gill and Hugh Robertson led the Storm attack with three majors each - two of Robertson's coming almost identically by using his strength in boundary throw-ins to grab the ball and goal early in the third quarter.
The Hawks were in danger of being made to pay for missed opportunities when they had 1.8 on the board approaching time-on of the second quarter.
Yet after being wayward early - albeit so too were the Storm - the Hawks added 13.6 from their last 19 scores.
Bryce Curnow, matched up on Shaun Knott, continued his superb season at centre half-back to be named best for the Storm.
"It was a real physical game today; Eaglehawk is very hard to beat on their home ground and it just shows it's good footy when the top five sides play each other," Storm coach Troy Coates said.
"We definitely needed a challenging game today and there's plenty for our boys to learn from."
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