TWO goals in the final five minutes were the difference as East Warrnambool snatched a gutsy win over Deakin University.
The Bombers won a low-scoring tussle 5.13 (43) to 3.11 (29) at D. C. Farran Oval thanks to late majors from Jono Malone and Simon Tindall.
Malone converted on the run from about 30 metres to break the deadlock with about five minutes to play before Tindall added another after the siren.
The win lifted Paul Butters’ much-improved side to 10th with a 3-10 record — already better than their 2013 return of 2-16. An ecstatic Butters ranked the win almost as good as the Bombers’ come-from-behind triumph against the Sharks in round two
“The enthusiasm after the game was unbelievable, it was a great feeling,” he said.
“As I said to the players, we’ve had our hard patches and times that are pretty tough.
“But to get these games and win them, that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about improving every week, trying to chip away.”
Butters had high praise for Malone, who went forward after Ben Gray suffered a suspected broken hand early and was among the best players.
He also played up the importance of a Chris Edwards goal from the boundary in the third quarter, when East Warrnambool was kicking against the breeze.
The Bombers had worked hard to lead 2.9 to 2.5 at half-time but were on the ropes as Deakin University came to life.
But three missed set shots — either side of a Josh van Heugten goal — meant the Sharks failed to put distance on their rivals and Edwards made them pay.
“It was just contest after contest, both teams. Deakin cracked in just as well as we did,” Butters said.
Ash Sumner, Jordan Collins and Jayson Millet were among the Bombers’ best, along with Malone. Regular backman Tindall led the scoring with two goals.
Chris Higgins was the Sharks’ only multiple goalkicker with two while defensive general Brandon Cole was their best player.
Deakin University assistant coach Matt Lenehan rued letting slip a match the Sharks should have wrapped up not long after half-time.
“We had every chance. The KPIs (key performance indicators) said we had a lot more inside 50s than them,” he said. “But the start of the third quarter we had three shots at goal that were gettable and would’ve put it over that three-goal margin, it would’ve been enough.
“We missed them and kept them in the game and they made the most of their opportunities.”
Lenehan said the Sharks were missing about 10 of their best 21 players but refused to use unavailability as an excuse for the loss.
“To East’s credit, I reckon they handled the conditions a lot better than we did after half-time. They worked a lot harder than we were willing to work,” he said.