GOLDEN Square recorded its first win at Canterbury Park in six years as it retained its unbeaten start to the BFNL season against Eaglehawk on Saturday.
In what was a slog of a game played in heavy conditions following rain on Friday night, the Bulldogs doubled the Hawks' score to run out comfortable 47-point victors, 13.16 (94) to 6.11 (47).
After two runaway wins over Maryborough and Kangaroo Flat the previous fortnight by a combined 327 points, the Bulldogs relished the tougher challenge of playing at a venue notoriously difficult for opposition sides to win at and it was a test they passed with flying colours.
"To beat Kangaroo Flat and Maryborough the way we did the past couple of weeks, we really needed this game today I felt," Golden Square coach Christian Carter said.
"Eaglehawk had a big reunion day on and it's always hard to win out there and with the conditions the way they were, it made it even tougher.
"We really set ourselves for today; we probably didn't adapt to the conditions until the second quarter, but after that I felt we controlled the game fairly well."
The first half was dominated by stoppages, both around the ground and boundary throw-ins, with ruckmen Matt Compston (Golden Square, 59 hit-outs) and Jack Lawton (Eaglehawk, 34 hit-outs) both having plenty of work to do.
Goals were at a premium in the first half, with the two sides combining for just five to the main break as the Bulldogs led by eight points, 3.7 to 2.5.
The Hawks kicked the opening goal of the match two minutes in when Liam Marciano - playing against his former side - nailed a checkside from the pocket.
But the home side wouldn't kick its next goal until the 26-minute mark of the second term through Sam Thompson.
In a game where goals were hard to come by in the first half, Golden Square didn't help its cause by kicking 1.7 from set-shots before the main break.
And with goals a rarity, the Hawks, who had Izak O'Sullivan making his senior debut, were made to pay for a costly 50m penalty that gifted Joel Brett a straight-forward major during the second term.
After a low-scoring, contested first half, the game opened up for the Bulldogs during the third quarter as they produced the defining 20 minutes of the match.
The Bulldogs cracked the game open with the first five goals of the third term, kickstarted by a contested mark and converted set-shot to Tom Strauch as they blew their advantage out to 39 points, 8.9 to 2.6.
But the Hawks rallied and after kicking just two goals for the first 76 minutes booted three in 10 minutes, including two to Corey Roberts - the first from a strong contested mark.
The three late goals brought the Hawks back within 23 points and with some momentum gave the home side a sniff, but that was quickly quashed by the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs - who dominated the inside 50 count by +26 for the game - slotted the first three goals of the final term, including a 50m shot on the run to 50-gamer Ryan Hartley, to ensure the visitors their first win at Canterbury Park since 2016.
For the Bulldogs, captain Jack Geary (36 possessions), whose disposal in the tough conditions was first-rate, and wingman Jake Thrum (40) again won a stack of ball, while Hartley's performance (23 possessions, five clearances) in the clinches earned high praise from Carter.
"I thought Harts was enormous for us and played a super game; our midfield is teaming together really well," Carter said.
"We've got a good spread of guys who can win the ball in the eye of the contest, but also the guys on the outside who spread and use the ball really well."
The two big defensive match-ups for the Hawks were given to Dylan Hanley on Jayden Burke and Oscar Madden on Brett.
Although it wasn't an easy day for forwards, given the lopsided inside-50 count in favour of the Bulldogs, the two defenders both performed admirably and were named their two best players, with Brett finishing with three goals and Burke two.
The Hawks are now 2-2 and sorely missed the experience of trio Clayton Holmes, their leading goalkicker for the season Darcy Richards and recruit Dillon Williams on Saturday.
"They were really tough conditions today, so I think there will be a few boys from both sides come out of it with heavy legs," Eaglehawk coach Travis Matheson said.
"To be honest, I don't think either side played the brand of footy they'd be looking to play week in, week out based on the conditions, which made for a fairly scrappy sort of game.
"I thought our first half was good and we were right in the game, but in the second half they lifted and were able to do enough to kick away from us.
"I guess what was impressive was the way we were able to come back late in that third quarter and got ourselves back into a position where we felt we still could have won the game at three quarter-time.
"Something we've really worked on is making sure we don't roll over and I think the boys can hold their heads high."
Bullocking midfielder Noah Wheeler led the Hawks in possessions (27), clearances (10) and tackles (10).
Golden Square 13.16 (94)
Eaglehawk 6.11 (47)
GOALS - Golden Square: J. Brett 3, L. Barrett, J. Burke, T. Strauch 2, M. Compston, R. Hartley, A. Jenkyn, J. Thrum. Eaglehawk: L. Marciano, C. Roberts 2, B. Thompson, S. Thompson.
BEST - Golden Square: Ryan Hartley, Jake Thrum, Jack Geary, Liam Barrett, Liam Duguid, Tom Strauch. Eaglehawk: Dylan Hanley, Oscar Madden, Brady Rowles, Lewin Davis, Billy Evans, Noah Wheeler.
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