MILLICENT maintained its second position on the Western Border Football League ladder after Saturday’s Round 7 clash against North Gambier.
A relatively close first half eventually saw the Saints run away in the third term for a 29-point victory on their home deck at McLaughlin Park.
Kicking with the wind in the opening term, the Tigers were off to a promising start, with Tom McLennan opening the scoring with his first of four goals.
This was backed up by a goal from Nick Blachut, before Millicent’s Matt Duldig opened his ledger.
The powerhouse forward finished the match with a five-goal total, most of which were a result of marking contests around the 50-metre line.
The Tigers maintained their lead with a goal to William Lewis in the 12th minute, but from there the Saints took control of the quarter.
A pass from returning playing coach Clint Gallio saw Dylan Bromley with a shot on goal, which he converted for his only major of the day, while Gallio made his own mark on the board in his first playing game for 2018.
Gallio kicked a solid goal from the boundary to put Millicent in front, before backing it up with his second major from a set shot before the first break.
After a year’s break due to knee surgery, Gallio looked to be back to his hard-playing best and will certainly add to the depth the Saints have already demonstrated this season.
With a nine-point lead going into the second term, Millicent managed to add three more goals and a behind before the long break, while North had an inaccurate quarter to score two majors and four minors.
With neither side showing their best at the half-time mark, they both came out firing after the break.
With North controlling plenty of play in the early stages of the third quarter, it opened the goal count through McLennan in the fourth minute.
However, this was quickly answered by a goal from William Fleming, who took a solid mark from a Hamish Gordon kick to convert.
Despite the ball seeing plenty of North’s forward half, the Tigers struggled to find the big sticks and another four minor scores were all they could muster before the final change.
The Saints took advantage of this, with Gordon and Sam Willis both converting their second of three majors.
Duldig bagged his third late in the quarter to set his team up with a 29-point margin going into the final stanza.
Millicent slackened off somewhat in the fourth term, which allowed North its highest scoring quarter with five goals, but the Saints also kicked five to maintain the margin.
Gordon opened the term with a quick goal in the first minute to claim his third, while Duldig found his fourth soon after.
This was followed by a massive left-foot hook from Hamish Nitschke, which made the distance and saw him with his second major.
Lewis kicked his second for the Tigers shortly after, backed up a big running goal from Nick McInerney.
Nicholas Mark added to the North goal streak, but once again it was Duldig who answered for the Saints, this time receiving a handball from Willis right in front of goal.
Willis rounded out the Millicent goals in the 21st minute with his third, while McLennan was the final major scorer of the day.
Despite a game Gallio described as “a bit of a scrap”, the clash saw players from both sides with some standout efforts throughout.
James Weir stood tall in the Saints’ defence and earned himself the best-on-ground honours for his impressive efforts.
He was joined by the likes of Flemming, who played another solid game, while the consistent Gordon and Tom Hutchesson had their usual impact around the ground.
Blake Kenny played his role well in the back pocket and Duldig was recognised for his impressive five-goal haul, while Gallio also had a big impact around the ball and in a contest.
Nitschke’s two goals were impressive to say the least and he also deserves a mention, while Gallio praised the back six on another solid effort.
For North, Glen Soper earned the best-on-ground title, while McInerney and Michael Telford also deserved their places on the best players’ list for their hardy efforts.
Fraser Marshall, Jordan Hollitt and ruckman Kenny Lam rounded out the Tigers’ best.
With Duldig finding goal-kicking form at a good time in the season, Gallio said it is good to have such a big presence alongside Bromley to make an impact up forward.
These two, aided by the plenty of capable scorers in the Millicent squad is something which has been the undoing of many teams so far this year.
“That’s a strength this year, we have plenty of guys who can role through and kick goals and pop up,” Gallio said.
“So if someone’s having an off day, someone else is most likely to step up.”
With a hard ball game in the opening half, Gallio said the talk at the long break was just about addressing the simple things to take back some control.
“It was a matter of just getting back to winning the footy first and manning contests and making sure we have each got a pair – just simple stuff,” he said.
“We got it back on our terms and did those things well and I think our run in the third quarter got us the advantage.”
With a meeting against ladder-leader Casterton Sandford this week at Island Park, Gallio said the Saints are looking forward to the clash.
“Casterton over there will be a good challenge for us, we are looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s a bit cliché, but we are just taking it week by week and adjusting to the things we need to work on.
“Any game between first and second, it does not matter what league or what competition it is, it’s always exciting times.”