THE reigning champ has shown it is still the top dog.
Panmure remains undefeated after a 14.14 (98) to 9.15 (69) win in its round seven blockbuster against Dennington on Saturday.
On a glorious autumn day at a sun-drenched Dennington Recreation Reserve, it was the Bulldogs who prevailed in a contest that did its best to masquerade as a final, despite the calendar showing it is still only May.
Like the best finals, this game saw pure skill compromised by the application of constant and hostile pressure each time the ball was won.
That Panmure came out the winner was no surprise given this is the team that has shone brightest in the last two-and-half years when the pressure is at its most intense.
The size of the margin was perhaps unkind to Dennington, but it did hammer home the point that you need to play four full quarters against this relentless Panmure outfit.
Big games are won with persistence and the ability to pull out something special when needed and the Bulldogs were able to do both.
The pace and brilliance of Panmure pair Tommy Jones and Simon O’Keefe lifted the Bulldogs out of a battle they were up their necks in.
After an even first half, Jones used his pace and precise kicking on the run to kick two of only three goals scored in the third quarter to take his team to a 14 point lead at the last change.
With the game still to be won, it took 13 minutes until the first goal of the last quarter came. This goal came from O’Keefe whose composure, speed and class delivered the goods and set his team on the path to victory.
Two more goals came for the Bulldogs in the next two minutes to seal the deal. It started what was to be a goal-scoring free-for-all with the Bulldogs kicking two more and the Dogs three in the last 15 minutes of the game.
It was an impressive win for the Bulldogs who were challenged for much of the day but showed they have plenty of grit to go with their skill.
Dennington had the better of play early and at quarter-time led by three points, despite kicking into a slight breeze.
Panmure then moved up a gear and kicked three goals to one in the second quarter to lead by eight points at the long break.
Wingman Shamus O’Beirne joined O’Keefe and Jones as the third amigo in the speed blitz that gave the Bulldogs the point of difference that was needed to sway the contest their way.
It was a game that highlighted the quality of both teams with some outstanding individual performances.
Daniel Roache was the dominant big man on the ground as he controlled the ruck for most of the day.
He had some willing helpers with James Keane — a late inclusion playing his third game of the year after a knee injury — proving a spark for the Bulldogs both in the ruck and up forward.
Andrew McPherson was also a late inclusion in what was his second game for the season, having played his first back in round three.
The 26-year-old, who played in the Victorian Amateur Football Association the past few seasons, joined his younger brother Tim in the Bulldogs’ line-up.
He started forward before a brief stint in the middle and then a move to half-back to join his brother in defence.
O’Keefe said McPherson was a great find for the Bulldogs.
“He has played at a high level of footy over his career so he gives us another A-grader, which is always handy,” O’Keefe said.
“He was really good when the game was up for grabs. He lives in Geelong so we are hoping he will get back to play six or seven games over the course of the season.” Dennington has unearthed a find of its own with Kurt Smith, who kicked three goals in the first quarter in what was just his second game for the club.
Dennington coach Ben Parkinson said Smith had been impressive on limited preparation since coming across from Russells Creek.
“He didn’t do a pre-season because of osteitis pubis so he didn’t get to train until the week of round one,” Parkinson said.
“He kicked a couple in the wet last week and was really good today and is a handy goal kicker.”