Even after the first break of the 2022 Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association Premiership Cup season the pecking order did not change.
The top three teams on the ladder got back into the groove by collecting some confidence-boosting wins in round 7.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon International and Blue Lake brought the heat with a mountain of goals at Malseed Park.
The Rangers would have been expected to play with a few nervous legs after the tough result in the previous contest, but they came out with a spring in their step.
Even after missing some players due to injuries and illness, the hosts were able to compete with their more fancied opponents.
Picking a winner would have been tricky over the first quarter of an hour as both sides had their moments.
But soon International’s presence was too strong and a direct header from captain Christian Cella set up by Caleb Casey got proceedings under way.
Cella then doubled his account with a long shot as the scoreboard quickly got out of hand for the hosts.
To compile Blue Lake’s pain an own goal arrived minutes before half time after a scuffle in the box.
The Rangers rallied at the break with renewed plans and purpose and they managed to hit the scoreboard in the 49th minute.
A long range shot also followed shortly after with Lay Bae Htoo and Meereh Htoo the boots behind the strikes.
However, these were sandwiched between more Inter breakthroughs as the goals came thick and fast in the second half.
A couple of conceded strong saves from Ka Nay Di Baw and some converted penalties at the other end took the sting out of Blue Lake’s comeback as Matthew Bueti started to have his say.
Although the hosts did reduce the deficit, their hopes of a fightback were dramatically dashed with Casey and Bueti teaming up not once, but twice to seal the devastating 7-2 win.
The closest game of the round took place at Webb Street where ladder positions three and five faced off.
Still on a high from its grand win over Inter, Apollo wanted to continue its momentum, but encountered a stoic Naracoorte team.
In classic winter weather both teams struggled to find their best in a tight affair.
Most of the game was played in the visitors’ defensive half but they held firm led by goalkeeper Andrew Diment and his allies Muhammad Mehdi and Ciaran Shouksmith.
After a tough slog, Apollo eventually found a breakthrough thanks to the gutsy efforts of Gay Nah.
Although the blue and white struggled to convert to put the result to bed, they did enough to secure the premiership points.
Apollo coach James Stephenson said it was far from the complete performance, but he was happy to get the job done.
“After such a great effort against Inter, our heads were high and confident and I thought we would play with a bit of arrogance and purpose,” he said.
“But we just did not seem to find our third, fourth or fifth gear against a depleted Naracoorte side.
“We did not necessarily play badly and had some nice passages of play, but we just unfortunately did not have the hunger or ruthlessness to really blow the game open.
“We were lucky to sneak a 1-0 win, so I am happy to take the points and we continue to learn as a young team.”
Gambier Centrals maintained its strong standing in the competition with a convincing win over Millicent United at MGA Park.
With first and sixth on the ladder clashing, few anticipated a close game and the Lions lived up to the favourite’s tag.
The hosts never looked threatened and moved the ball forward with structure and purpose.
Millicent’s defenders were always under pressure and despite the best efforts of Noah Duka, Ricardo Silva, Ian Lines and Webster Momanyi, they could not avoid a sixth-straight defeat.
Cam Saint and Sam Shoemark were in fine form circling the goals like sharks and produced some scintillating finishes.
Saint had the most fun collecting a hat-trick with Shoemark in close company with two, while Christian Fleetwood was rewarded for his fine efforts in the midfield with a successful strike of his own.