by Samuel Zito nfnl.org.au
A barnstorming final term helped Eltham overcome Whittlesea to secure its second win of the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 season.
Behind by 21 points at half time, the Panthers were still 15 points adrift at the final change, before piling on six goals to one in the final term.
The 12.12 (84) to 10.10 (70) win at Eltham Central Park could be telling at season’s end, with the result leaving both finals contenders 2-1 after three rounds. A win to the Eagles would have given them a two-game and percentage gap over the Panthers.
Eltham trailed for the opening three quarters and didn’t hold the lead until the six-minute mark of the final term, when Jesse King booted his third goal of the match. It followed goals earlier in the term from the damaging Darcy Vallance and Matthew Williamson.
The Panthers’ blistering start to the quarter continued when Jesse Freeman and Williamson also slotted majors in the next five minutes to extend the home side’s advantage to 15 points.
It was Eltham’s leaders who stood up when it mattered, with Anton Woods, Brent Macaffer, Lewis Glasgow and Williamson all playing pivotal roles in the final quarter blitz – providing great assistance to Vallance, Matthew Keys and Kyle O’Sullivan who played well all day.
Whittlesea threatened to make a late charge, with a Paul Higgins goal midway through the final term cutting the margin to nine points. Higgins’ next attempt from long range hit the post, before a Jaron Murphy set shot just missed to the near side.
The result was sealed when Michael Still marked deep inside 50 and converted to extend Eltham’s lead to 14 points early in time-on.
An Eltham win had looked unlikely in the first half after the visitors controlled the game through the midfield.
Xavier Dimasi continued his outstanding start to the season and was dominant at the stoppages – regularly taking possession before bursting away from congestion to drive his side forward.
The Eagles booted the opening two goals of the game through Murphy and Jack Dyson and held an eight-point advantage at quarter time following a late goal to Sam Indian.
The second quarter was Whittlesea’s best for the day, with the game played on the Eagles’ terms for the entire quarter.
Murphy kicked his second goal in the opening minute of the term, before Dimasi added another from distance to give Whittlesea a 19-point buffer.
Good work by Nathan Stefanile in the ruck ensured Whittlesea maintained control of the midfield battle, while good pressure inside their attacking half of the ground often caused Eltham to cough the ball up as it exited defence.
Eltham began to get on top during the third term, however the Panthers couldn’t convert their ascendancy into scoreboard pressure.
Both sides booted three goals for the term, with the Panthers booting 3.6 to the Eagles’ 3.0 – with Whittlesea able to capitalise on limited inside 50 entries.
The highlight of the term was a great goal to Tom Falls, who took possession at the 50m arc, before rounding an opponent and kicking truly.
With the momentum starting to favour the home side and the visitors looking to be fatiguing, the start of the last term was always going to be crucial.
The Panthers lifted when it mattered and five goals in the opening 11 minutes changed the entire course of the game, after managing just six majors in the opening three quarters.
The result creates a logjam on the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 ladder, with six sides all sitting on two wins after three rounds.
Final score: Eltham 12.12 (84) def Whittlesea 10.10 (70)
Goal Kickers: J. King 3, M. Williamson 3, M. Still 2, B. Macaffer, D. Vallance, L. Glasgow, J. Freeman
Best Players: D. Vallance, A. Woods, B. Montanaro, M. Keys, J. King, K. O’Sullivan
Goal Kickers: J. Dyson 3, J. Murphy 2, S. Indian , T. Falls, X. Dimasi, P. Higgins, B. Watson
Best Players: X. Dimasi, J. Murphy, J. Dyson, N. Stefanile, B. Watson, B. Fitzgerald