The headline battle of the fourth Bendigo Bank Western Border football round lived up to the Saturday night spectacle with Millicent Saints marching from behind to overhaul North Gambier at McLaughlin Park.
Boosted by the important, but ultimately brief return of Clint Gallio, the Saints had high hopes for their special contest under lights, but the Tigers had other ideas.
Despite Sam Willis seizing on a snap to score the first major of the night, it did not take long for North to impose itself on the contest.
With battering ram Nick McInerney crashing through packs alongside the skillful Hamish Telford, the Tigers were able to stride clear kicking double the amount of goals in the first term.
With the visitors enjoying a 16-point lead and Millicent coach Gallio suffering a calf injury in the opening minutes of the second term, the cards were stacked against the home side.
However, the Saints rallied and turned the game on its head with a stunning second term.
Millicent moved the ball methodically through the middle and went on a rampage scoring nine goals to not only match the Tigers, but away run away towards a healthy 21-point lead.
After producing nine scoring shots in the first quarter, North had to do with just one in the second as the Saints reached top speed.
Gallio said the turnaround was down to a more refined approach.
“We definitely got beaten in the midfield early which was disappointing because that is one of our strengths,” he said.
“But we did not change too much of what we were trying to do and just executed things a bit better.
“We had to take care of the footy and change the angles a little bit to get the ball out of our defensive area.
“Sam (Waring) gave us first use of the footy all night which allowed us to win some clearances which stopped the influence of their great players Nick and Hamish.”
Although the Saints steamed into the second half with all the momentum, the Tigers did not back down.
With Justin McConnell up forward again, North was not afraid to attack the goals from long range which meant the result remained up in the air until the closing stages.
But with young guns such as Jaxon Cushion, Kobe Gibson and Noah Lang scoring majors at key times, Millicent managed to stay in front and win a hard-fought contest by 16 points.
After spending three weeks of mostly missing in front of goal, accuracy was Millicent’s friend this time kicking 12.5 which proved crucial as North missed 13 of its 21 shots, while gritty efforts in the midfield paid off.
“We lost Finn Grimes before the game so we put it on Sam to ruck all night and he was super for us,” Gallio said.
“We moved Frazer Bradley up to the wing and was super athletic and we gave 16-year-old Kalan Shanks a role where he sometimes found himself on McConnell and held his own well.
“We still had quality players on the sidelines too, so it shows the maturity of our side to still get the win.”