A spirited Casterton Sandford effort was not enough to stop a young East Gambier outfit from taking home some important premiership points in the only Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League fixture on Saturday.
Although a bye had been penciled in for the SA Country Football Championships, the Cats and Dogs settled their differences on the field in a rescheduled clash from round 8 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite missing both playing coaches Matt Willson and Jayden Eldridge, the pups ensured the pair had nothing to worry about and overcame a hardened Victorian opponent.
Boosted from the invaluable experience of playing alongside former Geelong premiership stars Max Rooke, Mathew Stokes and Brad Ottens, Casterton Sandford scrapped hard in one of its most promising performances of the season.
An upset was on the cards early as the Cats put the visitors on the back foot with a first-quarter blitz.
Led by Diarmid Cleary and Hamish McRae in the middle, Casterton Sandford bombarded its forward 50 with strong ball movement.
In a rare special sight for the home crowd, the Cats dictated terms and complied more than double the amount of scoring shots than the visitors.
But the home side’s forward line of Ricky Killey, Dillan Carlin, Gabe Parsons and Nathan Richardson struggled to seize on the chances and missed seven of the nine shots at goal.
Their efforts were enough to give Casterton Sandford a much-needed lead entering the first break, but the five-point margin could not contain the Bulldogs for long.
East dominated when play resumed with the likes of Jake Harrap, Shem Balshaw and Brad Rathjen proving more than worthy men to fill the big holes left by Willson and Eldridge across the centre square.
The trio used their coolness and composure to feed the hungry Bulldogs forward line regularly which was boosted by a returning familiar face.
For the first time in two years, Matthew Scanlon pulled on the East Gambier jumper and showed no rust.
He booted three important goals to help the Bulldogs steal the lead, while Todd Lockwood stole the show.
Starting on the wing, Lockwood soon became the number-one target inside 50 scoring the first of his six match-winning majors.
The Cats were startled and could not do anything about their lead turning into a 23-point deficit.
Having regrouped at half time Casterton Sandford hit back in an evenly-fought third term.
McRae and Cleary continued to charge down the ground and even kicked a combined total of five goals, while Killey also kicked a couple.
At the same time the Bulldogs pressed on the accelerator as youngsters Shaun Lock, Giancarlo Cooper, Keenan Dwyer and Riley Flamank made their mark.
After the entertaining passage of play, East increased its lead to five goals and carried the momentum until the final siren.
The Cats ran out of puff and could not stop the Bulldogs from easing away to a 44-point win.
Despite the loss, McRae and Cleary led Casterton Sandford to its highest score since round 2.
The rivals will meet again at the same time and place this weekend.