Casterton Sandford won an almighty arm wrestle with North Gambier in a thrilling back and forth Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League contest at Island Park on Saturday.
The two teams are in the thick of the fight for the bottom two finals spots on the ladder, so a win over one another would be like gold at this point of the season.
It was the Cats who prevailed by 16 points, which could have been more, but remained an impressive feat after the Tigers’ dashing start.
Casterton Sandford coach Kane Forbes did not understate what the win meant for the side.
“It was a massive game in the context of the season,” he said.
“Without putting too much pressure on the players, from a coaching point of view we saw it as a mini final whether we wanted to assert ourselves on the competition or fight our way into that fourth spot instead.
“Hopefully we are able to get a bit of momentum from it over the next few weeks, but it was a funny game.”
Forbes’ statement is very true because some Cats fans who saw the first five minutes could have been forgiven for walking out of the grounds.
The Tigers were on fire scoring four unanswered goals in the blink of an eye, with Sam Stafford showing signs he was ready to have a dominant day in the forward 50.
Forbes admitted North blew his boys away at the start, but loved how his engine room rallied.
“North jumped us and kicked four goals in about five minutes and I do not reckon we touched it,” he said.
“I was a little nervous because we got smashed in the clearances and contested ball which gave them pretty good looks.
“But our mids responded and started winning their own footy and got some momentum.”
Amazingly Casterton Sandford marched into the opening break with the lead after a blitz of its own.
The Cats’ comeback was sparked by Ed Pritchard’s head-down attitude to manufacture a goal from a contested pack, while five more majors followed in quick time before the change.
But the Victorians were not done there and cemented their stranglehold on the game across the next two quarters.
Billy Galpin and Nick McInerney threw everything at each other in an entertaining battle for supremacy in the midfield with the Cat emerging slightly on top also booting three majors, while Gabe Parsons and Adam McKinnon produced lots of energy thriving in their new positions on the wing.
Once again Diarmid Cleary played a major role, but Forbes admitted their star was “underdone” and there were serious doubts as to whether or not he could play.
However, Cleary made the call himself to play and he excelled at a new role on the half-forward line.
Although Casterton Sandford did so well to keep the Tigers scoreless in the third term to lead by the comfortable 46-point margin at three-quarter time, it almost all fell apart.
A yellow card left the Cats undermanned and the yellow and black pounced kicking five goals to zero in the last with Stafford lifting his total to seven.
Despite North’s last-minute assault and its peerless performance from its key forward, it could not overturn the result.