LOCKINGTON-Bamawm United overcame a 16-point deficit at three quarter-time against North Bendigo to keep its unbeaten Heathcote District league record intact on Saturday.
The Cats were staring down the barrel of their first loss since 2019 when they trailed the Bulldogs 69-53 at the final change.
But just as they had done a week earlier when severely tested by Mount Pleasant, the Cats lifted and answered the challenge, kicking five goals to one in the final term to win 12.14 (86) to 12.4 (76) at Lockington.
Of the 18 games the Cats have won in a row since their last loss pre-COVID in the 2019 first semi-final to Mount Pleasant, Saturday was the first time an opponent had finished within three goals of LBU.
"That's two weeks in a row we've had to show fight and grit," Cats coach Brodie Collins said.
"We knew it was never going to be easy... North Bendigo is a big-bodied side that is really strong in the contest, so it was always going to be a hard game.
We knew it was never going to be easy... North Bendigo is a big-bodied side that is really strong in the contest, so it was always going to be a hard game- Brodie Collins - LBU coach
"Our system was definitely tested today; North Bendigo defends extremely well and is a well-coached side. We were getting beaten in the middle and it took us to start winning the stoppages to win the game."
The best player for the Cats was key defender Charlie Hinks, who had the big job on gun Bulldogs' forward Dylan Klemm, who was held goal-less for the first time this season.
Forward Thomas Leech, who was second best, Ben Fulford, Coby Cox and Collins all kicked two goals for the Cats.
North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said the class of the Cats rose to the fore in the final quarter, while North Bendigo's cause wasn't helped by losing two of its experienced key players in captain Jordan Ford and Aarryn Craig, who were both forced from the field with head knocks in the last term.
"We had three umpires today and to lose two players to head knocks and it doesn't get picked up was disappointing that blokes weren't protected around the footy," Bennett said.
"Unfortunately, we just couldn't hold on in the last quarter and Lockington's class showed. They took control of the clearances and stoppages and we didn't defend well enough when the stoppages were in their forward 50.
"We're disappointed with the result, but we've shown our best footy is around the mark."
Midfield recruit Nathan Newlan was the Bulldogs' best player, while the experienced Lachlan Ford was strong across half-back.
Craig and Storm Giri each kicked three goals for the Bulldogs, while in his second game for the club as an aligned player, Collingwood VFL co-captain Lachlan Tardrew slotted two goals.
Saturday's crowd certainly got their monies worth, with the three football games decided by a total of 17 points - the Cats winning the seniors by 10 points, reserves by four points and under-18s by three points.
Heathcote has taken a massive step in its pursuit of a long-awaited finals berth for the first time since 2013.
Given it's unlikely there's going to be room for both Heathcote and White Hills in the top five come the end of the season, the Saints recorded a pivotal 48-point win over the Demons at home.
Similarly to their win over Elmore the previous week, the Saints dominated the second half after the game had been in the balance at the main break.
The Saints had been seven points up at half-time before kicking 13 goals to seven in the second half to win 20.10 (130) to 12.10 (82).
Following the previous week's victory over Elmore, it's the first time the Saints have won two in a row since rounds six and seven of 2017.
"It was a huge result for us; we went into the game knowing down the track it could potentially be White Hills and us fighting for that fifth spot, so to get a win was fantastic," Heathcote coach Andrew Saladino said.
It was a huge result for us; we went into the game knowing down the track it could potentially be White Hills and us fighting for that fifth spot, so to get a win was fantastic- Andrew Saladino - Heathcote coach
"It was a really important day for the club being a reunion day and there was a big crowd, so I was super proud of the boys."
For the second game in a row the strong-marking Jack Brooks booted five goals for the Saints.
"Jack clunked everything up forward again, which was fantastic for his confidence. He's only 21 and is playing some really good footy," Saladino said.
As well as Brooks' five, the Saints also had Kai Cavallaro and Braden Padmore kick four goals each.
The Saints kicked 19 of their 20 goals across the first, third and fourth quarters, while the second term was dominated by White Hills when it outscored Heathcote 4.5 to 1.2.
Midfielder Ryan Walker was the best for the Demons, while recruit Bayden Fallon also played well again and kicked three goals.
Elmore has its first win of the season after defeating Leitchville-Gunbower by 36 points.
The Bloods unleashed a nine-goal blitz during the third term on the way to their 18.13 (121) to 13.7 (85) victory at Leitchville.
Although he wasn't at the game due to COVID protocols, Elmore co-coach Dylan Friedberger said it was a relief for the side to get over the line for what was the Bloods' first win since June 19 last year.
"The group just needed to get a win to get a bit of confidence," Friedberger said.
"We've squandered some chances, but this was our first four-quarter effort and we were able to get the result."
We've squandered some chances, but this was our first four-quarter effort and we were able to get the result- Dylan Friedberger - Elmore coach
For the second time in three games Elmore's Darcy Laffy had a big impact inside 50, kicking eight goals, just as he did against White Hills a fortnight earlier.
"He is gaining confidence and it's great to see," Friedberger said.
Nick Kellow, Kyle Armstrong and Laffy headed the best players for the Bloods.
Although beaten, the Bombers enjoyed a more fruitful day inside 50, with their tally of 85 coming after they had been held to scores of just 24, 42, 28 and 27 in their previous four games.
For the fourth game in a row ruckman Jobee Warde was named best for the Bombers as he continues to impress in his first season at the club, while under-16-listed Bendigo Pioneer James Barrat showed his class to kick four goals.
Coach Julian Bull admitted it wasn't pretty, but Colbinabbin grinded its way to a 26-point win over Huntly to remain unbeaten and on top of the ladder.
Missing nine of their best 22, the Grasshoppers won 12.14 (86) to 9.6 (60) at Strauch Reserve to improve to 7-0, continuing their best start to a season since 2007.
"Huntly made it tough going for us and it was a real slog right until the end," Bull said.
"They closed within a goal a couple of times through the second half, so we had to work hard to get over the line."
James Brain played a pivotal role in the victory for the Grasshoppers, booting six goals to continue his impressive form and now has 21 in his past four games.
Fellow recruit Luke Moore in the midfield and ruckman Hadleigh Sirett also led the way for Colbinabbin.
The Hawks, now the only winless team after seven rounds, were right in the contest when just 11 points down at three quarter-time after charging back into the game during the third term.
"We worked a fair bit on our press and the way we set up behind the ball leading into today because we'd been getting scored against fairly heavily," Huntly coach Stacy Fiske said.
"Colbo also sets up really well defensively, so it was a bit of a facing off of fairly similar gamestyles."
Half-back Jay McDonald, fellow defender Brandon Dimech and on-baller Tori Ferguson were the standouts for the Hawks, who had Luke Gray kick three goals.
"We were in there with a chance going into the last quarter. It's obviously disappointing we didn't get the win, but it was good to get back to playing our brand of footy, which we've shown can stack up against these better teams," Fiske said.
Colbinabbin 2.5 7.6 8.11 12.14 (86)
Huntly 1.1 3.4 7.6 9.6 (60)
GOALS: Colbinabbin: J.Brain 6, D.Price 2, C.Shields 1, J.Barlow 1, T.Holobowski 1, J.Brain 1; Huntly: T.Mercadante 3, L.Gray 2, O.Downing 1, J.Cordy 1, T.Ferguson 1, M.Christensen 1
BEST: Colbinabbin: J.Brain, L.Moore, H.Sirett, T.Holobowski, D.Price, J.McMurtrie; Huntly: J.McDonald, T.Ferguson, B.Dimech, M.Billings, M.Christensen, T.Mercadante
Heathcote 6.1 7.3 13.9 20.10 (130)
White Hills 1.3 5.8 8.8 12.10 (82)
GOALS: Heathcote: J.Brooks 5, B.Padmore 4, K.Cavallaro 4, A.Mcivor 2, J.Jones 1, H.McCarthy 1, J.Conforti 1, M.McLean 1, C.Price 1; White Hills: B.Fallon 3, L.Bartels 2, D.Nihill 1, H.Richards 1, G.Bowles 1, C.Kekich 1, J.Fallon 1, R.Walker 1
BEST: Heathcote: M.McLean, J.Brooks, R.Bailey, R.Bolton, J.Jones, C.Hamilton; White Hills: R.Walker, B.Fallon, B.Bacon, H.Richards, D.Nihill, L.Bartels
Elmore 6.2 7.8 16.10 18.13 (121)
Leitchville-Gunbower 3.4 5.6 9.6 13.7 (85)
GOALS: Elmore: D.Laffy 8, K.Armstrong 2, M.Carson 2, T.Cerrone 1, L.Price 1, R.Williams 1, D.Oaff 1; Leitchville-Gunbower: J.Barrat 4, B.Hawken 2, A.Walton 2, N.McLellan 2, J.Regan 1, S.Lewis 1, B.Azzopardi 1
BEST: Elmore: N.Kellow, K.Armstrong, D.Laffy, undefined.null, T.Cerrone, M.Carson; Leitchville-Gunbower: J.Warde, N.McLellan, A.Walton, J.Barrat, S.Lewis, L.Martini
Lockington-Bamawm United 2.5 4.6 7.11 12.14 (86)
North Bendigo 1.1 6.2 11.3 12.4 (76)
GOALS: Lockington-Bamawm United: C.Cox 2, T.Leech 2, B.Collins 2, B.Fulford 2, R.Woodland 1, J.Collins 1, J.Mundie 1, H.Cobb 1; North Bendigo: S.Giri 3, A.Craig 3, L.Tardrew 2, N.Waterson 2, N.Newlan 1, M.Gray 1
BEST: Lockington-Bamawm United: C.Hinks, T.Leech, J.Howlett, T.Phillips, J.Collins, B.Collins; North Bendigo: N.Newlan, L.Ford, D.Klemm, undefined.null, N.Waterson, S.Harris
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.