THE hunted remains at large.
Warrnambool’s premiership defence claimed a third straight victim on Saturday.
The Blues crushed North Warrnambool Eagles 17.19 (121) to 7.9 (51) in a fiery contest at Reid Oval, further entrenching themselves as the Hampden league’s team to beat.
The preliminary final rematch was a heated affair, with three players sent off for indiscretions.
Blues recruit John Paulin was reported in the second quarter for allegedly striking and Eagles duo Andy McMeel and Ben Mugavin were also banished to the bench under yellow cards. McMeel was reported for allegedly striking in the third term.
The Blues made their mark after half-time.
Warrnambool slammed on 11 goals to three in the second half, condemning the Eagles to their first loss of the season and a week of soul searching.
Jason Rowan took his season goalkicking tally to 20 from three matches with an eight-goal display, while half-backs Brendan Moore and Michael Threlfall produced damaging counter-attacks.
Blues hard nut Angus Chirnside moved back into defence with strong results and Jake O’Donnell was Warrnambool’s best midfielder. Warrnambool coach Scott Carter said when the Blues’ effort was high, the rest of their game plan fell into place.
“We have come up against the top three contenders and (today) got a 70-point win and got through injury-free,” he said. “Can’t ask for more than that.”
Carter said there was “a bit of feeling in the game” but that there was nothing malicious in the incidents.
The Eagles were depleted, having lost Brendan Murfett (knee) and Luke Williams (hamstring) as late omissions.
Midfielder Dean Gavin (ankle) and defender Xavier Mills (calf) were other Eagles’ casualties, finishing the game on the bench.
North Warrnambool Eagles coach Bernard Moloney said his side would learn from the heavy loss.
“I thought we were competitive for two-and-a-half quarters but we were under pressure the whole time,” he said.