Tigers claw back to winning form against cross-town rival

On a day of milestones where two players were chaired off, it was North Gambier celebrating the hardest after it won its first Western Border football game in a month against East Gambier on Saturday.

The Bulldogs and Tigers resumed their rivalry, but despite the home crowd saluting club champion Jayden Eldridge in his 200th game, they had little to cheer about.

Knowing a loss would have a big impact on their hopes of finishing third, the yellow and black came out firing at the “Kennel”.

After kicking the first four goals and losing to Casterton Sandford in the previous round, North ensured a repeat was not possible by attacking the ball hard and being rewarded for their efforts.

The Tigers midfield of Nick McInerney, Hamish Telford and Brett Kennedy managed to get in front of their rivals to feed their power forward Sam Stafford cleanly as he dined out inside 50 yet again.

McInerney got proceedings going with a nice check-side as North quickly established a lead, while at the other end of the ground Jake Schutz and his fellow defenders kept the East goalless for the entire first half.

By the main break the damage was done with the Tigers enjoying a 45-5 and coach Ben Hardy said it was the perfect response after the disappointment of Island Park which sparked some tough times on the track.

“We had a big week on the track because I was not very happy after the Casterton loss,” he said.

“Getting bullied around the contest is not what we are about or what we stand for, so on the Tuesday night we had a two-hour session on tackling and wrestling.

“Those were not our standards so we made a really big point that we wanted to dominate a team from start to finish and we were able to do that.

“Obviously being Jayden’s 200th game we knew they were going to come out firing so for us it was about taking the heat out of the first five minutes, working around the contests and setting up our structures defensively which helped us take control forward of centre.”

East did manage to lift its game and rally in the second half with milestone man Eldridge leading from the front alongside Shaun and Nicholas Lock.

The Bulldogs scored 34 of their 39-point total, but that was not enough to slow down the Tigertrain.

The conductor was once again Sam Stafford, who one game after booting seven in a losing effort went even better striking nine big ones from all angles.

Hardy said Stafford’s recent purple patch was down to hours of commitment behind the scenes.

“Sam has put in a mountain of work in the off season and the last four weeks he said he wants to get into that South East zone team, so we have been challenging him to put in dome dominant performances,” he said.

“He has developed his role doing a little bit of ruck as well, but has just taken ownership of the forward line.”

But after the final siren, the cheers were saved for Eldridge and Nick Blachut, who were chaired off for their respective 200th and 250th game milestones.

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