SOUTH Rovers broke even with Timboon Demons in the first quarter, held sway for the next two and were outplayed down the stretch.
Momentum was precious and fleeting at Timboon Recreation Reserve on Saturday. The Lions had it for longer and did more when things went their way.
Coach Brendan Whelan acknowledged as much after his men secured a 11.10 (76) to 9.4 (58) win in round 15 of the Warrnambool and District league.
“We’ll take the win, absolutely. We’ve been on the end of our fair share of losses so any win we’re rapt with,” he said.
“But it’s just frustrating because we were better than an 18-point win says. But that’s credit to Timboon.”
This was not an even contest throughout as the final score implied.
Rather, it was a collective of four unique quarters, each with their own storyline.
The defining plot was South Rovers’ cleaner skills in the middle two terms, when they kicked 8.6 to 3.3 to open up a 33-point lead by three-quarter-time.
They hit targets around the ground, got numbers to contests and built an effective midfield wall. But they were also patient when the circumstances dictated.
Two goals, as routine as they were well-executed, summed up the Lions’ dominance.
The first came from a centre bounce nine minutes into the second term, when Jake Bacon found Matt McMillan with a clean handball out of the congestion.
McMillan, one of the sparks of the mid-match run and a super contributor all day, hit Shane Hart with a lace-out pass directly in front.
The second, seven minutes into the third term, came in contrasting fashion. The Lions were calm in their build-up, content to chip the ball sideways outside their 50.
The option they were waiting for presented itself when Braden Hotker found space in a congested forward line. The pass was pinpoint and Hotker kicked truly.
The Lions kicked three of the next four goals to end the third quarter and were on the verge of breaking the game open with a term to play.
But the Demons would not lie down. Goals to Ben Saunders and Dylan Smith, after a soft 50-metre penalty against Adam Payne, cut the margin to 21 points.
They could have closed to within three goals when Andrew Blake marked 30 metres out. His shot missed and a sigh resonated through the modest crowd.
The lost opportunity was costly. The Demons had all the running but would not score for the next 14 minutes.
Tensions in both camps began to rise in the meantime and spilled over when a brawl involving more than 10 players broke out in front of the clubrooms.
A Ryan Smith goal at the other end of the ground — after a 50-metre penalty — at the 22-minute mark turned the attention back on the play.
But it was too late for the gallant Demons as the Lions secured a win which leaves them in eighth, three matches clear of the bottom four.
Nathan Krepp finished with four goals for South Rovers, who were well served by onballers McMillan, Payne and Hotker and captain Julian Claridge.
Blake was Timboon Demons’ best, working hard for little reward in the forward line. Matt Grant and Sean Giles were also tireless in the midfield.