The Bendigo Pioneers suffered their first loss of the NAB League season in heartbreaking circumstances on Sunday.
The Pioneers led for much of the game against a wayward kicking Calder Cannons at Craigieburn.
A fine Cobi Maxted mark and goal gave the Pioneers a 13-point lead entering time-on of the final term.
However, the Cannons surged home and kicked the final three goals of the game, including two goals in the final two minutes to win 7.22 (64) to 9.4 (58).
"They outplayed us most of the day,'' a philosophical Pioneers' coach Danny O'Bree said.
"They smashed us around the contest and their spread from the contest was far better than ours.
"We were just lucky our backs were so unbelievably good and they kept us in the game.
"I thought our forwards worked pretty well. It seemed every time we went forward we managed to score.
"The boys were flat that we lost, but realistically Calder could have put the gaway a lot earlier.
"Our efficiency in front of goal kept us in front."
The absence of a number of the Pioneers first choice midfielders left an inexperienced group to battle the Cannons on-ballers.
In the final five minutes of the game the Pioneers couldn;t get their hands on the ball.
"I don't want to throw our midfield under the bus at all, but I think 90 per cent of our midfield group from the first three games didn't play today,'' O'Bree said.
"It was a really good experience for our younger brigade. We had a couple of 17-year-olds playing through the middle. They'll learn a lot which puts us in good stead going forward."
The Pioneers' best players were headed by key defender Xavier Mitchell.
"Xavier Mitchell was utterly sensational down back,'' O'Bree said.
"Cobi Maxted (three goals) was a shining light up forward, he seemed to clunk everything and he spent some time in the middle as well.
"Zavier Murley was good and Caleb Ernst competed really well in the air and took some nice marks.
"Finn Ellis Castle was good in his first game back from a two-year break."
Calder Cannons 1.6, 2.12, 2.17-29, 7.22 (64) d Bendigo Pioneers 3.0, 5.1, 7.2, 9.4 (58)
Goals - Bendigo: C. Maxted 3, C. Ernst 2, R. Monti, Z. Murley, C. Anderson, F. Ellis Castle.
Best - Bendigo: X. Mitchell, C. Maxted, Z. Murley, C. Ernst, C. Anderson, F. Ellis Castle.
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