SOUTH Bendigo has lived up to its nickname of the Diggers after "digging deep" to pull off a stirring comeback and win its first BBD division one weekend pennant premiership for 26 years against Bendigo East on Sunday.
The Diggers were staring down the barrel at the tea break when they trailed the Beasties 40-22 after 35 ends in front of a big - and vocal - crowd at Golden Square.
However, in the face of adversity the Diggers rallied after the break and within 11 ends of the resumption of play had taken the lead.
That lead was shortlived though as the Beasties regained the advantage and for much of the next 40 ends Bendigo East's advantage hovered around five shots.
But down the stretch it was the Diggers who played the better bowls and on the 96th end coach Brad Holland's rink picked up a four against Aaron Tomkins to give South Bendigo a 92-86 lead.
When South's Luke Hoskin picked up one shot soon after against Marc Smith the Diggers' advantage grew to 93-86 after 97 ends.
East managed to pull one shot back on the 98th end through Tomkins to trim the deficit back to six shots, leaving the rink of South's Gary Downie and East's Brad Marron to play the final two ends.
However, only one end was needed as Downie picked up three on the 99th to give South Bendigo an unassailable 96-87 lead after Marron was unable to kill the end as the Diggers celebrated their first division one premiership since 1994.
The drought-breaking flag came five years after the Diggers began their rebuild by luring Holland in a coup as coach from Bendigo East.
"This is what we've been working towards for the past five years and it's great we've been able to get there," Holland said.
"They took it right up to us early and we needed to fight back... to the boys credit we did and it's obviously a great result."
After having no rinks up at the tea break, South Bendigo finished with three winning rinks as the Diggers outscored the Beasties 74-47 after the break.
The most decisive of South's rinks was Hoskin's 24-16 victory over Smith.
Scores had been level 16-16 after 18 ends, before Hoskin put the foot down, finishing on an 8-0 run over the final seven ends.
After trailing for much of the afternoon, South's Holland finished with a 24-21 win over Tomkins.
Tomkins' rink got off to a flyer, leading 12-4 after 10 ends.
However, a four on the 11th end for Holland got his rink rolling as it gradually plugged away at the deficit until hitting the front for the first time on the 24th end with the four-shot pick-up that overall put South up by six.
The South rink of recently-installed skipper Downie continued its superb finals form, defeating Marron 28-25 in what was an entertaining tussle where momentum ebbed and flowed.
Marron started the better, leading 10-5 after six ends, but by the 14th end Downie was in front 19-16.
They had been level 25-all after 23 ends, before Downie picked up three shots on what proved to be the final end.
Bendigo East's only winning rink was that of coach Lee Schraner, who defeated Liam Crapper 25-20.
Crapper's rink looked like it could be in for a torrid day when Schraner raced to a 12-1 lead after five ends and having already picked up two fives, including on the opening end of the match.
However, after its slow start Crapper's rink was able to stem the tide and pull the margin back to five shots.
The Crapper rink including second Josh Wiffen playing just his fourth division one game.
Overall, South Bendigo won 54 ends to Bendigo East's 45.
Among South Bendigo's victorious team was Don Sherman.
Sherman was also part of South Bendigo's previous division one premiership side in 1994 when it also beat Bendigo East.
"This is absolutely fantastic for the club," Sherman said.
"Dad (Don Sherman Snr) passed away two-and-a-half years ago and he would have been absolutely over the moon with this, so that's why it's really special.
"We have a great family connection with the club and it's a really good bunch of guys to play with."
Adding to South Bendigo's achievement was the Diggers winning the premiership from fourth position after beating Kangaroo Flat (elimination final) and Eaglehawk (preliminary final) to win their way into the grand final.
For Bendigo East - which sat on top of the ladder for all 14 rounds - the nine-shot defeat was just the Beasties' fourth from 30 games over the past two seasons.
"South played extremely well after the break... they played very positive to the heads and brought plenty of energy across all their rinks," East skipper Marc Smith said.
"Full credit to South Bendigo; they outdid us with their conversion shots and played some big bowls."
South Bendigo's victory on Sunday completed a contrasting weekend for the Diggers, who had three teams in Saturday's other weekend pennant grand finals, but all were beaten.
HOW EACH RINK UNFOLDED:
LEE SCHRANER (East) def LIAM CRAPPER (S. BGO) 25-20
Lee Schraner - 12
Liam Crapper - 1
Lee Schraner -13
Liam Crapper - 5
Lee Schraner - 18
Liam Crapper - 12
Lee Schraner - 21
Liam Crapper - 18
Lee Schraner - 25
Liam Crapper - 20
Lee Schraner - 13
Liam Crapper - 12
BRAD HOLLAND (S. Bgo) def AARON TOMKINS (East) 24-21
Aaron Tomkins - 7
Brad Holland - 2
Aaron Tomkins - 12
Brad Holland - 4
Aaron Tomkins - 15
Brad Holland - 11
Aaron Tomkins - 20
Brad Holland - 16
Brad Holland - 24
Aaron Tomkins - 21
Brad Holland - 14
Aaron Tomkins - 11
GARY DOWNIE (S. Bgo) def BRAD MARRON (East) 28-25
Brad Marron - 8
Gary Downie - 5
Gary Downie - 12
Brad Marron - 11
Gary Downie - 19
Brad Marron - 17
Gary Downie - 22
Brad Marron - 22
Gary Downie - 28
Brad Marron - 25
Brad Marron - 13
Gary Downie - 11
LUKE HOSKIN (S. Bgo) def MARC SMITH (East) 24-16
Luke Hoskin - 4
Marc Smith - 2
Luke Hoskin - 9
Marc Smith - 7
Luke Hoskin - 16
Marc Smith - 9
Luke Hoskin - 18
Marc Smith - 16
Luke Hoskin - 24
Marc Smith - 16
Luke Hoskin - 17
Marc Smith - 8
South Bendigo - Trevor Zimmer, David White, Ben Gould, Gary Downie (s). Steven Zsigmond, Don Sherman, Greg Page, Brad Holland (s). Dale Oddy, Josh Wiffen, Mitch Sidebottom, Liam Crapper (s). Wayne Marwood, Aaron Taylor, Frank Byrne, Luke Hoskin (s).
BBD GRAND FINAL RESULTS
South Bendigo 96 def Bendigo East 87
Liam Crapper 20 lt Lee Schraner 25
Brad Holland 24 d Aaron Tomkins 21
Gary Downie 28 d Brad Marron 25
Luke Hoskin 24 d Marc Smith 16
Kangaroo Flat 87 def Eaglehawk 77
J. Schultz 22 d M. Watts 19
B. Flett 19 lt F. Carbone 20
G. Hegarty 26 d S. Piercy 22
E. White 20 d R. Evans 16
Harcourt 108 def Golden Square 90
G. Maddern 27 D. Condon 23
L. Moloney 24 d B. Hogan 17
T. Olsson 31 t J. Frost 31
S. Douglas 26 d P. Bush 19
Strathfieldsaye 97 def South Bendigo 75
T. Probert 29 d D. Conley 13
T. Cole 24 lt J. Geldart 25
S. Smith 20 d R. Parks 19
D. Huggard 24 d S. McMurray 18
Golden Square 100 def Campbells Creek 89
D. Kent 14 lt I. Brooks 28
G. Taylor 25 d K. Odgers 22
L. Power 28 d G. Cooper 22
G. Tipple 33 def B. Ross 17
Kangaroo Flat 97 def South Bendigo 80
W. Conboy 27 d T. Doolan 24
I. Vogele 26 d J. Warfe 16
R. Clark 25 d B. Mott 16
J. Ritchie 19 lt T. Gastin 24
Woodbury 73 def White Hills 58
B. Shay 16 lt M. Bree 26
P. Luke 31 d C. Jansen 14
J. Grainger 26 d E. Hood 18
Woodbury 79 def South Bendigo 77
R. Anderson 19 lt M. Runnalls 32
K. Geyer 29 lt K. Prestley 31
P. Gould 31 def D. Campbell 14
Harcourt 48 def Bendigo 32
D. Gale 35 d L. Aiello 12
D. Jeffries 13 lt J. Wells 20
Division 1 - Golden Square 68 def Bendigo East 65
Division 2 - Kangaroo Flat 79 def White Hills 63
Division 3 - Woodbury 78 def Kangaroo Flat 59
Division 4 - Castlemaine 78 def Bendigo East 65
Division 5 - Strathfieldsaye 50 def Inglewood 49
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