PREMIERSHIP contender Eaglehawk has capped a nine-game winning-streak with a 41-point win over Gisborne, which coach Travis Matheson rates as arguably the Hawks' best this season.
It's a big statement given the red-hot Hawks are just seven weeks removed from a victory over ladder leaders Strathfieldsaye, which remains the Storm's sole loss in the 2019 BFNL season.
But with second spot up for grabs and the opportunity to gain an edge on their likely opening finals opponent, the Hawks were relentless from the first bounce and never let up.
The Hawks were quick to establish their ascendancy with a handy 17-point advantage at quarter time before the rain set in.
Gisborne was able to reduce the margin only slightly in the second term, before the Hawks effectively put the game away in the third with a four goal to one third quarter to lead by 28 points.
An early goal in the final term to Jarryd Pertzel, who finished the game as one of four multiple goal scorers for Eaglehawk, was enough to ensure there would be no miraculous comeback for the Bulldogs as the Hawks powered to a 13.7 (85) to 5.14 (44) victory in the mud and rain.
The Hawks were led by dominant big man Clayton Holmes and their elite band of midfielders, with Ben McPhee, Brodie and Jesse Collins and Brodie Filo all major factors.
In attack, Sean Williams was lively with three goals to be the most effective forward on the ground form either side.
But it was the depth of contributions that was most pleasing for the Hawks coach.
"I don't think we've had someone, who has been getting 40 touches every week, or even 30 for that matter, but we are getting 15 guys getting the ball 15 times," Matheson said.
"That makes us very hard to match up."
For Matheson, a tough slog in the mud and rain, and on opposition turf, had all the hallmarks of arguably the Hawks' best win in 2019.
"Given the conditions and how difficult that track has been for most sides throughout the year, it was a big win," he said.
"What was most impressive was how we played the conditions - we managed to still play a dry weather brand of football even though the conditions were rather testing.
"(Ball use in those conditions) is something that we really focus on and even despite the conditions we thought we were a chance to play our normal brand of footy."
I don't think we've had someone, who has been getting 40 touches every week, or even 30 for that matter, but we are getting 15 guys getting the ball 15 times.Travis Matheson
It was an aspect not lost on Gisborne coach Clinton Young , who said his side had been beaten at crucial moments by the Hawks' clean disposal.
"Obviously it was a real scrappy game, whether it be on the scoreboard where for a time we'd had a lot more more scoring shots, or around the ground, they were a lot more cleaner," he said.
"I thought our boys battled hard, but overall our efficiency around the ground and towards goal was a big difference.
"Although it was a five-goal margin at three-quarter time, I didn't feel we were out of it, but full credit to Eaglehawk, they used the ball a whole lot better.
The win ensures the Hawks cannot be displaced from the top three before finals, but thrusts Gisborne into a battle to retain the double chance ahead of next weekend's opponent Sandhurst.
"They will be coming in with good form and they did that last time, so it's an important game for us, especially playing up on the QEO for the first time this year," Young said.
Tim Walsh continued his consistent season in defence to be the Bulldogs' best contributor.
Pat McKenna was his side's leading goalkicker with three, while James Ferry, Liam Rodgers and Joshua Grabham all toiled hard.
Meanwhile, the Hawks coach reserved praised for Tim Hill for a standout game in defence.
"I think at the start of the year when he signed up I said he could take the easier forwards, but the last six weeks we have given him all the hard jobs and he has stood up top it," Matheson said.
"He's been sensational."
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