IT was third time lucky for North Gambier as the Tigers upstaged West Gambier for the first time this season in a tense round 14 Western Border football contest at Malseed Park.
Despite the low-scoring nature of the game, the match of the round lived up to expectations.
The top-of-the-table battle was closely fought with a finals-like intensity.
Heavy showers had their say as a repaired goal post, muddy field and a strong breeze added to the challenge.
To make matters worse for North, coach Justin McConnell joined a number of big names on the sidelines.
The Roos were also without the services of coach Brad Wilson, but still pounced and were the early pace setters with the wind.
West dictated the first quarter with fierce pressure highlighted by multiple smothers, which shut down any attempt from the visitors to rebound the ball out of the defensive 50.
It took just two minutes for the Roos to break free from the scrappy start as Todd Lewis converted a set shot.
A further West goal ensured the Tigers were left to lick their wounds after a scoreless first term, but with the wind behind them, they were hungry to bounce back into the contest.
North hit back with seven straight scoring shots, but only converted two of them.
It saw the Roos remain in front at the main break after impressive youngster Reid Kuller kicked truly in his side’s solitary opportunity in front of goal.
However, it was from there the Tigers started to turn the screws.
West’s forward ball movement struggled to move past the solid defence of Mayson Ashby, Dylan Munn, Tim McInerney, Declan Kenny and Brett Shepherdson.
Their presence grew larger as the game went on with effective intercept marks and solid tackling pressure.
Ashby and Munn were particularly formidable and were named as the best.
Through the middle, Nick McInerney and Fraser Marshall ran into contests hard all day.
Sam Stafford continued to be a force up forward and kicked two goals.
He found strong support from Nick Blachut, whose major out of the pack saw North hit the lead for the first time.
Just three points separated the rivals at the final break and an exciting final quarter was anticipated.
A goal each to Tom Mclennan and Michael Telford pushed the Tigers’ advantage to a handy 15-points and eased the nerves slightly.
But the Roos remained in the hunt through the likes of Sam Zeitz and best-on-ground Kuller pushing the ball forward.
West created a string of chances to close the margin, but struggled to make any major inroads.
Tensions flared moments before the siren when a heated scuffle put the full stop on a hard-fought match.
For the second week in a row, a depleted North outfit gritted out a nine-point win, which sees it reclaim the top spot on the ladder.
McConnell said the tough contest was a result of the challenging conditions.
“Wins like that are just about grit, desire and want,” he said.
“It was finals-like intensity out there, but those conditions are conducive to that sort of performance.”
McConnell said his side’s shock loss to South was a turning point and he is happy with their response.
“Sometimes a loss gives you good lessons,” he said.
In an ominous sign to the competition, McConnell said his firing side may be boosted by multiple inclusions in coming weeks, while he continues to manage his own workload.
“The good thing is we will have pressure for spots in the next couple weeks,” he said.
“We will have about six to eight guys coming back from injury at some point, which is a good headache to have.”