GEELONG FALCONS gained reward for effort when they ended a testing road trip with victory against Bendigo Pioneers.
Coach Andy Allthorpe said the 11.12 (78) to 8.16 (64) win at Strathfieldsaye reflected the Falcons' ability to hang in there in matches they weren't dominating.
Grovedale's James Tsitas returned from Victoria Country duty to kick two goals in a best-on-ground display, but two south-west teenagers also had an influence.
Kolora-Noorat's Nick Bourke presented well on a wing and at half forward in his first game back from injury, and Cobden's Daniel Watson was solid in his new midfield role.
"It's been pretty good the last three weeks," Allthorpe said.
"They've worked hard and got the reward.
"We weren't overly happy with our performance on the weekend but there's been times where we've played three-and-a-half good quarters and we haven't won.
"But on the weekend we played one good quarter and we did win.
"(A) six-day break and a two-and-a-half hour car trip we were happy to get away with a win against a side that is pretty hungry."
That quarter of dominance came straight after half- time, when the Falcons kicked 7.1 to 1.4 to turn a five-point deficit into an 18-point lead.
They lost the final term but managed to hold on to their lead.
"The last quarter they came at us but they didn't take a couple of chances they could've," Allthorpe said.
The Falcons have six wins and six losses and are eighth, while the Pioneers are 11th with a 2-10 record.
Meanwhile, North Ballarat Rebels remain on top on percentage after conquering Northern Knights.
South Warrnambool's Louis Herbert kicked a goal in the Rebels' 18.7 (115) to 9.4 (58) win at Preston City Oval.
The Rebels trailed by a goal at half-time but kicked 15.4 to 5.1 after the long break.