PERCENTAGE is all separating Merrivale and Panmure as they jostle for third spot and a double chance come finals.
The Tigers now sit level with the Bulldogs on 32 premiership points after a gritty 7.14 (56) to 8.5 (53) win at a muddy Panmure Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
Merrivale plays two sides below it on the ladder - Russells Creek and Allansford - in the Warrnambool and District league's two remaining home-and-away rounds.
Panmure visits second-placed Kolora-Noorat next week before finishing with a match against Creek.
Merrivale coach Josh Sobey, who was caked in mud after slogging through four quarters of consistent rainfall, said the Tigers' aim was to improve each match.
"We just love training and love trying to get better," he said.
"They are a quality opposition and they taught us a lot last time we played them so we had a lot of respect for them.
"But we've been focusing on us for a while and really felt like we wanted to play well against the teams above us, whether it's raining or the sun's out."
Merrivale started strongly despite a limited training base following a two-week coronavirus-enforced break.
It kicked four of its seven goals in the opening term.
"It was a battle to the end and would have been good to watch," Sobey said.
"There was nothing too fancy about today but the boys dug deep.
"We took the most of our opportunities in the first quarter. We certainly set the tone there and it was good for the boys' confidence to carry it on."
Sobey, who praised defender James Fary and ruckman Manny Sandow, said early injuries to Ollie Doukas (ribs) and Todd McLean (tight calf) meant teenager Ben Conboy played extended minutes.
"Benny is an under 18 and I thought he played his best game for the club," he said.
Sobey said Ollie Doukas was taken to hospital for observation.
"He's not in a good way. It was the first quarter and was impact and just got left open a bit and got a knee to the wrong spot," he said.
Panmure coach Chris Bant, in his 150th game for the club, said the Bulldogs' slow start hurt.
"You don't take much about ball movement out of it but there are some things you can still take out of it," he said of the wet game.
"It is more mindset, knowing you have to be on for four quarters against good teams or you won't win, it's as simple as that.
"I am not convinced we were for the first half and that was probably the difference on the day."
Merrivale was eight points up at half-time - a decent buffer given the conditions.
Panmure's three-goal to one third term helped it to a one-point lead at the final change.
The Tigers quickly levelled before regaining the lead in the last term and kicking away.
Bant soccered the ball twice to kick a goal for the Bulldogs and cut the margin to three points.
But it wasn't enough.
"You could still score OK in the first half and that was when they were a bit hotter than us," Bant said.
"It is always hard to chase on a wet day like that, you work hard to get in front and then they seem to go up the other end and kick a goal easily and you've done a lot of hard work for not much reward."
Bant said there was time to score after his goal but everything had to go right.
"When it goes back to the middle, numbers become even and you can also score quickly but when the ball comes down, and gets stuck in (an opponent's) pocket for instance, it seems like a long way to goal when there's congestion," he said.
Panmure tall Kallan Melican (serious corkie) was hurt.
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