WARRNAMBOOL’S eyes are on a third straight flag so it was fitting it used the aptly named premiership quarter to flex its muscle against challenger Koroit on Saturday.
The Blues kicked six goals to one in the third term at Victoria Park, turning a seven-point half-time deficit into a 23-point three-quarter-time advantage.
It proved too big a gap for the second-placed Saints to overcome, with the Blues’ 15.7 (97) to 12.4 (76) triumph all but sowing up the minor premiership with three rounds to play.
Warrnambool’s ability at ground level with its pace and skill, and in the air with its list of enviable talls, left a gallant Koroit searching for answers.
The Blues’ strengths were particularly evident in the third term when they dominated the inside-50s and took an abundance of uncontested marks in front of goal.
Jake O’Donnell, Jason Rowan, Cowling and Jye Turland all hit the scoreboard before comeback kid Liam Hoy, playing his first senior game of the season after battling injury, converted.
Hoy’s teammates swarmed to him from all over the ground, which was bathed in sunshine, to congratulate him.
The pressure intensified on the Saints when O’Donnell kicked his second before the final break to give the Blues a handy buffer.
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter was thrilled with the win, particularly given Koroit controlled parts of the first half.
The Saints slotted six goals to three in the second term, including two each to Levi Nagorcka and Jayden Whitehead. Nagorcka’s first came after he took a courageous mark running against the flight of the ball.
Carter said the Saints took momentum into half-time.
“I thought when we were challenged at half-time and were behind that we responded really well,” he said.
“I thought our third quarter was really good and I thought in the second quarter we were guilty of making some basic skill errors — we dropped some chest marks, turned over some simple kicks.
“To Koroit’s credit I thought they capitalised on those opportunities.
“We tried to emphasis that when we had the ball in our hands after half-time, let’s make the most of it.
“I thought in the third quarter when they were trying to play numbers back in our back 50, we lowered our eyes and hit up free men really well.”
Two key components to the Blues’ structure — tall timber Sam Cowling and Andrew McCarthy — continued their consistent seasons in fine style. Cowling’s strong marking was a feature and he finished with a game-high five goals, while McCarthy’s uncanny ability to float back and read the play as a spare man was again telling.
Carter was rapt with that pair’s efforts but also with Travis Graham’s performance playing as a high-up forward.
For Koroit, rapidly emerging teenager Willem Drew belied his age yet again. The 15-year-old was the Saints’ best, with his footy nous on show on a wing.
Tim Carter was solid in defence, Jeremy Hausler handy in the ruck and Whitehead finished with three goals, but coach Adam Dowie thought the Blues won most positional battles.
Dowie admitted he was at a loss at how to overcome the flag favourites.
“I said to the boys (I’m) encouraged by the scoreboard, encouraged by it was a competitive game but on the flipside of that is there are some areas which stick out pretty obviously and we are sort of wondering how we are going to address those,” he said.