PANMURE coach Mandy Condon says she expects the run home to be tougher than the start of the season.
The Bulldogs have moved 10 points clear in second spot after prevailing against South Rovers, 37-35, in the match of the round at Walter Oval.
But they did not have things their own way and had to fight from 10 goals down at half-time to strengthen their hold on a finals double chance.
Condon said she knew Rovers would put up more of a fight than when the sides first met in round two — a match Panmure won by 17 goals.
She said Rovers caught her side “off guard” in the first half on Saturday.
“We knew it was going to be a really tight game,” she said.
“The first time we played them I don’t think they had their full side in and as the year goes on you’re always going to get better.
“They really played for each other. They probably wanted the ball a lot more than we did in the first half and backed each other up really well. That really stood out. And they just had a lot of confidence in each other. Their passes were really good.”
Clutch shooting from goaler Brooke Rudezky and attacking sidekick Bridget Roache proved influential as Panmure surged in the second half.
Sally O’Keefe was also watertight in defence, but the Lions were battling illness and were without premiership goaler Rhiannon Davis.
The match was the first time Panmure has won a thriller this season, after a draw against Merrivale and a one-goal defeat to Old Collegians.
Condon said her players would gain belief in their ability to pinch victory.
“We were extremely happy after the game and that was why,” she said.
“We knew we were down and probably for the last three years we might’ve got within one or two goals and lost.”
South Rovers coach Mandy Knee said she was proud of the Lions’ fight.
“We really should’ve won the game but overall we weren’t that disappointed,” she said.
“We had Rhi Davis out and two of us were pretty unwell during the match. We were odds-on to run out of legs at the end of the match.”
Knee said the contest gave Rovers a key insight into the Bulldogs’ combinations ahead of a likely finals match-up.
She said she was confident the Lions had “cards up our sleeve with regards to that”.
“Yesterday has given us a lot of confidence going into finals,” she said.
Goal defence Tania Barker was the Rovers’ best in what was an even team effort.