SOUTH Bendigo injected some early spark into its season with a two-goal come-from-behind win against Eaglehawk at the QEO in round two of BFNL netball.
The Bloods, with several new faces on board from their 2019 line-up, came from five goals down during the final quarter to prevail in a see-sawing contest 41-39 on Saturday.
A strong final term from young debutante Morgan McClellan proved pivotal for the Bloods, who were well led by their dynamic midcourt recruit Keiarah Brooks at wing attack and defender Stephanie Goode.
Goal attack McClellan converted eight of 10 goal attempts in a frenetic last quarter as the Bloods capped a remarkable final quarter surge.
But the win came at a cost with midcourter Emily Cossar transported to hospital with a concussion and a possible back injury after landing awkwardly on the court during the second quarter.
A first-up win for South Bendigo, who had the bye in round one, denied a brave Eaglehawk its first win of the season, a week after falling victim by 41 goals to Kangaroo Flat.
The much-improved Hawks led by three goals at quarter time and half time, but trailed by four goals at the last change of end, before engineering a fantastic comeback of their own in the final quarter to almost take the points.
South Bendigo coach Jannelle Hobbs praised her new-look side's fighting spirit.
"The third quarter was probably a turning point, coming in three goals down and coming out four goals up," she said.
"They threw everything at us in that last quarter and actually got a few goals up again, but we just kept fighting.
"Losing one of our best players in Em Cossar really threw the team around a bit, but credit to the girls, they fought on hard and really deserved that win.
"We still have a lot of improving, but you can't beat that match-play under pressure which we are not used to yet (after the COVID break).
"Credit to Eaglehawk, they played really well I thought - it was a pretty even contest throughout.
The Bloods, who broke a 19-year finals drought in 2019 and finished fifth, will be hoping their morale-boosting win is the sign of better things ahead in 2021.
It continued a trend of close matches between the two sides in recent seasons, after the Bloods and Hawks played out a pair of draws in 2019
While disappointed with a narrow loss, Eaglehawk joint captain Ash Gilmore said the young Hawks had shown tremendous character and resilience to lift themselves up after a heavy loss the previous weekend.
"We all got together during the week and we weren't happy with how things went, so today was all about being positive and trying to connect on the court with some chemistry and I thought we really did that," she said.
"As much as it hurts to go down by two goals, we did play a really good game and you can see what is starting to build.
"Last week hurt, we've worked pretty hard in the off-season. The girls are young and we are keen to put our hand up and step up to the plate when needed and today it showed.
"The young ones really stood up and I thought our defence was really good."
At Wade Street, Gisborne overcame an injury to star defender and Betty Thompson medallist Maddy Stewart to defeat Golden Square 47-22 and register their second-straight win to start the season.
Gisborne coach Tarryn Rymer said her side was made to work every inch of the way by a determined Golden Square.
"I was really impressed with them, they were really an unknown coming in, but they were very fast and matched us very well in the pace department," she said.
"It was a very physical game, I don't think the scoreboard reflected how tough it felt out there.
"Our defensive end was very tough, especially in that first half.
"Madds (Stewart) and Pol (Polly Salter) in that first half stopped everything and then Madds came off with a sore knee.
"We threw Ella (Finemore), our goaler, back into defence and brought Rylee Connell on and her Tazma Morris combined really nicely to help us continue that lead.
"I was happy we were able to score quite consistently with 12, 12 and 14 in the first three quarters and then we dropped off in the last
"That was our aim this week, to put four strong quarters together."
Rymer, who is 2-0 in her first season as coach, said her players were excited for next week's big test at home against Kangaroo Flat.
The rampaging Roos continued their imposing start to the season with a 58 goal win over Kyneton at Dower Park.
It was an even more impressive performance than their 41 goal win over Eaglehawk in round one.
Kangaroo Flat was superbly led by star midcourter Chelsea Sartori while splitting time at centre and wing attack with Ash Ryan, and vice-captain Carly Van Den Heuvel, who formed part of a near-impenetrable defensive unit alongside Bronte Deary, Milly Wicks and Ingrid Hopkins.
Roos coach Jayden Cowling said the Roos had worked themselves into some great early form ahead of a pair of tough matches in the next two weeks against Gisborne and Sandhurst.
"We had a bit of a slow start again (to lead 11-5 at quarter time), but once we got into our groove, the girls really took the pressure off themselves and enjoyed their netball," he said.
"I think we've been focusing a bit on the other team rather than ourselves in that first quarter in the first two weeks.
"We have spoken about it and it's something we'll fix as we do have two big games ahead and you can't afford to start slowly against Gisborne and Sandhurst.
"Chelsea (Sartori) was outstanding today and really led by example in that second half."
Forty-five of the Roos' goals came in the second half, while restricting the now 1-1 Tigers to just seven.
Two massive wins has Kangaroo Flat on top of the ladder on percentage ahead of reigning premiers Sandhurst, with Gisborne in third place and also undefeated.
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