READ MORE - Saturday Scoreboard: April 24
REIGNING premier Strathfieldsaye has its first win of the Bendigo league season on the board following a 96-point victory over Maryborough on Saturday.
The Storm's 24.13 (157) to 9.7 (61) victory featured a seven-goal bag from young forward Cooper Jones, who was among 10 Strathfieldsaye players to hit the scoreboard.
While the final margin showed a comfortable victory for Strathfieldsaye, Storm co-coach Shannon Geary said the result didn't do justice to the endeavour and tenacity of the visiting Magpies at Tannery Lane.
"I don't think the score is a true reflection of how the game went," Geary said.
"Maryborough put a lot of pressure on us throughout and we didn't stand up as well as we would have liked in some areas.
"We didn't execute as well as we would have liked, but a lot of that came back to the pressure Maryborough put on.
"But it opened up a bit for us in the second half and we were able to get a more free-flowing game and get it down to our forwards a bit quicker than we had been in the first half."
The Storm led by 44 points at half-time, 10.7 to 3.5, before kicking 14 goals to six after the main break.
As well as forward Jones' seven goals, the Storm also had captain Lachlan Sharp slot five and Riley Clarke kick three as they bounced back from losses to Sandhurst and Gisborne in their opening two games.
Pleasing for the Storm was a marked improvement in their conversion, with their scoreline of 24.13 following inaccurate returns of 12.18 and 8.17 - a combined 20.35 - in their first two games.
"Cal McCarty played a really good game for us in the midfield and Cooper Jones was a really good target for us up forward," Geary said.
"Pat Blandford was good in defence and in his first game of the season Jack Neylon played really well with his attack and defensive mindset... he's the sort of player who just does whatever it takes for the side."
Gun Storm midfielder Jake Moorhead was taken to hospital to get stitched up after a split to his head.
"We're a young group this year and we'll keep learning from every week and look to keep improving," Geary said.
Although the final margin ended up being 96 points, it was a vastly inferior deficit than the last time the Magpies played at Tannery Lane - a 197-point hiding in round 18 of 2019 - while it was only the second time in their past 12 meetings Maryborough has avoided a triple-figure hiding from Strathfieldsaye.
The standout for the Magpies was Bailey Edwards, who was a big possession-winner, with his impressive game earning high praise from Geary.
"He was absolutely sensational; he would have easily had 35 touches. And it wasn't just 35 touches, they were 35 influential touches," Geary said.
Maryborough's nine goals were kicked by four players - Jayden Templeton (three), Jordan Fraser (two), Lachlan Butler (two) and Harrison Monk (two), who was one of his side's better players.
BULLDOGS POWER AWAY FROM YOUNG ROOS
GISBORNE gave its percentage an early-season boost with a 123-point win over Kangaroo Flat at Gardiner Reserve on Saturday.
The young Roos attacked the contest with plenty of vigour early, but the Bulldogs powered away with 20 goals to three after quarter-time to win 23.14 (152) to 4.5 (29).
"It was a real slogfest early in the game. Kangaroo Flat had us on the scoreboard for probably the first 20 or so minutes of the first quarter and put a lot of pressure on us," Gisborne coach Rob Waters said.
"They are a very young side and once we were able to get the ball out in space we were able to cut them open a bit.
"A few of our more experienced players lifted their workrate and we were able to get on top of their younger players as the game went on, which was good for us, but also probably a good learning curve for their club as well.
"I thought Scotty Walsh was really good and a bit of a wrecking ball on the inside early and Brad Bernacki was good with his inside work.
"The rain came in throughout the day, so it wasn't easy, but we scored well and our forward line worked well."
The Bulldogs had a spread of 10 goalkickers led by captain Pat McKenna's five.
Fellow forward Josh Kemp slotted four, while gun midfielder Brad Bernacki and recruit Ethan Foreman in his first game for his new club following a hamstring injury kicked three each.
Former Bulldogs' skipper Jarrad Lynch came off the ground in the first quarter following a head knock and didn't return.
"Lynchy is a very important and experienced player for us, but he will be right to play next week no problems," Waters said.
The Bulldogs broke the game wide open in the second term, piling on 9.5 to 1.1 to turn what had been a 13-point advantage at quarter-time into a 65-point lead at the main break.
"There was a really good buzz in the first quarter... we held Gisborne scoreless for the first 20-25 minutes, but they kicked three late ones," Roos' coach James Flaherty said.
"Then they showed that they are clearly a quality side. Their structure and ball movement really opened us up in particular in the second quarter."
With two more debutantes in Ryan O'Keefe and Hamish Lockhart, the Roos have now played nine first-gamers across the opening three rounds.
Bendigo Pioneer-listed O'Keefe was given the opportunity to play on Bulldogs' star McKenna from the second quarter, while Lockhart kicked the Roos' opening goal before he copped a corkie.
On-baller Tom Gillespie was named the best for the Roos, who are now 0-3, continuing his solid start to the season.
"He has missed a few years of footy with a knee, but he has come back and he just has a red-hot crack," Flaherty said.
"Jake Hywood down back has improved a hell of a lot over these three weeks and played well and Mitch Trewhella was another who was good again."
TWO LATE KECK GOALS SEAL WIN FOR BLOODS OVER TIGERS
SOUTH Bendigo and Kyneton continued their trend of tight tussles against each other with another entertaining battle in the Bendigo league on Saturday night.
Having spent the bulk of the final quarter trailing, South Bendigo's Will Keck proved the match-winner, kicking the last two goals of the match in the closing stages as the Bloods emerged with a 13.12 (90) to 12.8 (80) victory at the Kyneton Showgrounds to improve to 3-0 in what's their best start to a Bendigo league season since their grand final year of 2009.
The 10-point margin was the sixth time in their past eight meetings less than two goals have separated the Bloods and Tigers.
Determined to ensure there would be no let-down from their superb victory over Eaglehawk the previous week, the Bloods were able to dig deep and win in the absence of coach and star player Nathan Horbury, who missed the game for the birth of his first child on Saturday night.
"You could tell from the outset it was going to be a very contested game of football. Kyneton's pressure and attack on the footy was quite high and we were able to match that from the start," South Bendigo assistant coach Kaiden Antonowicz said.
The Bloods held sway by 19 points at half-time, 9.6 to 6.5, before the Tigers in front of their big crowd responded, kicking five goals to one in the third term to sneak ahead by four points at the last break with the momentum.
"It basically came down to the last quarter of footy and who wanted it more," Antonowicz said.
Keck's two late goals - one of which was a superb snap from the pocket - gave him three for the match, while recruit Michael Herlihy and Antonowicz also kicked two.
While Antonowicz described the Bloods' win as a genuine team performance, recruit Cooper Leon was named best.
"He's very hard at it and has been really consistent. He plays a hard-running style of footy and has been awesome for us," Antonowicz said.
The Tigers are now 1-2 and have lost both their matches on their home deck so far after going down to Golden Square in round one.
Among Kyneton's best players were Evan Davie, Guy Dickson and Bailey McGee, who all kicked three goals.
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