EAST GAMBIER 10.8 (68) d NORTH GAMBIER 7.7 (49)
IN an entertaining contest, East Gambier held off a hard-finishing North Gambier to claim victory in round two of the Limestone Coast Football League on Saturday.
In the undisputed match of the round, the Tigers held the home-ground advantage at Vansittart Park, but the Bulldogs came out hard and worked their way to an early lead, then broke free during a third-quarter shootout to claim an emphatic 19-point victory over the reigning Western Border premiers.
East held the upper hand for three quarters, despite several challenges from the home side and held a 24-point lead at the final break.
The Tigers were in touch in the third term, but were unable to chase the Bulldogs down, as the fit and determined visitors kicked several late goals, proving their long, yet interrupted preseason had paid dividends.
Again the Tigers challenged in the final stanza, but once more it was the Bulldogs who held firm, with a solid defensive effort to keep the North forward line relatively quiet.
From the first bounce the pace of the game suggested an entertaining hit out and it did not disappoint.
East pushed forward, but North responded and threatened to find the first major score.
However, a solid defensive effort from Jayden Eldridge and John Forster sent the Sherrin streaming along the wing back towards the Bulldogs’ attacking zone.
The game went back and forwards, but East finally broke the deadlock off a set shot from Shaun Lockwood.
Just a minute later Sam Stafford had the chance to equalise, but missed and the Bulldogs cleared again.
North coach Justin McConnell had his chance in front of goals but pulled his shot skinny.
Only the one goal was scored for the quarter, but both sides added three behinds in a game which showed no real advantage.
It left a six-point lead to the visitors and the second term provided no real joy for either side.
The first five minutes of the quarter started as the first had left off, with end-to-end football, but no real advantage.
Stafford found the first goal of the term to give the Tigers the upper hand, but Mark Rumbelow grabbed a diving mark soon after and finished off with a major.
Giancarlo Cooper then goaled for the Bulldogs and Jake Harrap continued to rack up possessions around the ground to move the ball forward.
While it was another low-scoring quarter, at the long break East had stretched its advantage to 11 points, but looked anything but comfortable.
After an early settling period in the third term Keenan Jacobs added another goal to the East Gambier coffers, but McConnell soon found a mark off a long lead to respond with a major.
Another couple to the Bulldogs looked ominous for the home side, but Stafford banged home a long goal and North remained within striking distance.
McConnell added two in quick succession to keep the game in the balance, with just 12 points separating the two sides.
North seemed more composed and moved the ball well, but a couple of late goals to East – including a long shot from Todd Lockwood on the boundary off a lace-out kick from Willson – put paid to any inroads the Tigers had made.
By the final break the margin was 24 points and it appeared the Bulldogs had withstood the best North could muster.
As it panned out the final term became another tough, defensive slog, with neither side able to push forward with any real threat.
North added a further two goals, while the Bulldogs kicked just one, but the visitors had done enough to claim the points in an entertaining game of football.
McConnell topped the score sheets with four majors, while Lockwood, Cooper and Lock all kicked two each for the Bulldogs.
For Willson it was an impressive result against such a strong side as North.
“There was some good footy played by both sides,” he said.
“We both had our moments where we turned the ball over a bit more than we would have liked.
“You look at North Gambier, probably the premier forward line in Western Border, so to hold them to one goal in the first half was a massive effort from our back six.”
After a low-scoring opening half, Willson said it was only a matter of time before the game opened up.
That happened in the third quarter and the Bulldogs took advantage.
“We knew it would open up and once it did we thought if we could capitalise in front of goal we would be right there when it counted,” Willson said.
“They kicked a few early goals, but for our guys to steady and stay composed – to weather the storm like we did and put a couple of goals on ourselves was really good.
“It was what we needed in the third quarter.”
Once again Willson said the confidence of his group picked up as the game progressed, despite the expected challenge from the Tigers, right down to the final term where the home side outscored the visitors.
“They were always going to come at us hard,” he said.
“To hold them off like we did in the last quarter was pleasing.
“Sam (Willson) kicked a good goal from the boundary which steadied the ship for us and we finished off well.”
East will now look forward to a night game Friday against Kalangadoo at McDonald Park, while North heads up to Mundulla to face the strength of the Moots on their home deck.