Eltham fought off a resilient St Mary’s outfit to claim a fifth successive win in the MC Labour Division 2 competition, prevailing by 15 points at Eltham Central Park.
The Panthers set up the win in the first half, and although the visitors dominated the final quarter, they couldn’t overcome the deficit ahead, with the home side winning 12.10 (82) to 9.13 (67)
The victory all but solidifies Eltham’s position inside the top two and further increases the gap from third spot to 12 points. St Mary’s are still in fourth but are incredibly just six points clear of eighth position.
Colm Culligan was an arial threat every time the ball came his way. His strong leads and impressive contested marking made him a danger to the opposition, also going up forward to kick a goal.
Daniel Owen was prolific for the Panthers, and despite playing well up the ground at times, he still managed to kick two goals of his own.
Jameson Wood shared the ruck duties with Thomas Goodwin for great effect, with Wood being incredibly active around the ground and finding plenty of the ball as a result.
St Mary’s midfield pair Joseph Maggio and Vincent Loccisano were terrific for the Burra with the duo winning plenty of possession in the difficult conditions sometimes presented to them. Nicholas Dean proved to be their most dangerous forward when the ball came into their attacking 50 but only finished with a single goal.
Right from the centre bounce St Mary’s dominated possession, producing numerous inside 50 entries. But while busy in defence, Eltham were able to restrict the Burra by taking intercept marks and bringing the ball to ground on almost every occasion.
Fabian Carelli’s side were able to register their first major of the afternoon seven minutes into the contest through Tane Cotter. By contrast, Eltham had to wait another six minutes to open their scoring through Culligan, who took a contested mark right on the goal line.
The Panthers were quick to double the dose through Thomas Goodwin who was paid a holding free kick in the right forward pocket before he kicked truly.
Tim Bongetti’s men looked relatively comfortable thereafter, with goals to Jesse Donaldson and Cameron Sullivan extending their lead to 16 points at quarter time. The Burra meanwhile only converted one goal from their seven scoring shots for the term.
Eltham’s dominance continued into the second term. Lorne Waldron had an early impact, collating plenty of kilometres on the wing. His pressure and defensive running saw him benefit from turnovers, but he was also competitive in the pack with some nice contested marks.
A great pass from Culligan set up Jason McCormick to kick the first of the second quarter and it looked as though he would continue on from his four-major effort last week.
Culligan meanwhile really asserted himself in the second term. His size and leap made him a threat in any contest, while also pinch hitting in the ruck when necessary.
With more Panthers goals coming from Benjamin Smith and Corey Middleton, the hosts took a 25-point advantage into the main break.
When Tom Goodwin and Daniel Owen added Eltham’s eighth and ninth goals of the day in the initial stages of the second half, the margin looked in danger of ballooning out even more.
But St Mary’s then went on a run to almost double their half time score in the space of just five minutes.
Lachlan Read’s classy finish from the pocket rounded out a third straight goal for the visitors to cut the deficit to three goals.
However, as they have in similar situations throughout the season, Eltham responded to the looming threat of an upset, scoring the final two goals of the quarter to push the margin back out to 30 points at three quarter time.
That momentum from the latter stages of the third looked to initially translate into the fourth, when a booming goal from outside 50 by Liam Frazer seemed to extinguish any hope of a St Mary’s comeback.
But with nothing to lose, the Burra looked to make more aggressive choices with their ball movement and Nicholas Dean was able to capitalise from a great kick by Joshua Carelli who had to weave through traffic to kick the ball forward.
Carelli had saved his best efforts until the last quarter and with a great running goal it looked like St Mary’s were in the hunt for a miracle fightback.
With 1.3 for the term, Eltham were clearly beaten in the quarter, but their back six held up under pressure, ensuring even the unlikeliest of comebacks wasn’t produced by their opposition, holding on to win by 15 points.