Eltham remains the only undefeated team in A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 after defeating Lower Plenty by 36 points at Eltham Central Park in Round 8.
The visitors had the lead throughout the first half and held a two-point advantage at half time. However, a seven-goal to one second half from the Panthers was the difference in the end, running out 14.14(98) to 9.8(62) winners.
Eltham now sits two games clear on top of the ladder and with a strong percentage. Despite suffering its first loss of the year, Lower Plenty remains in second position and still has an eight-point advantage over third-placed Diamond Creek.
The home side was without key players Anton Woods and Daniel Coffield, who were late omissions, while leading goal kicker Brandon Freeman was also missing. However, the Panthers didn’t seem to be fazed and continued to display the pressure around the ground that has seen them become so dominant this season.
Brent Macaffer was the leader of the dominant Eltham outfit, kicking four goals and continuously winning the contested ball, while Lewis and Bronson Glasgow and Thomas Carafa were also among the best for the Panthers.
Darcy Barden and Tom Keys were lively throughout the ground, creating a presence in every contest for Lower Plenty, while Thomas Blake was dominant in the ruck.
With both sides heading into the match undefeated, an intriguing battle was sure to occur and both sides didn’t disappoint in the first term.
Ciaran Porter and Brendan O’Sullivan exchanged goals early to keep things competitive as the pressure exhibited from both sides made for some entertaining football in the first half of the quarter.
After kicking 29 behinds against the Fitzroy Stars in their last game, the Bears had their kicking boots on in the first term, kicking five goals straight for the quarter while leading by 24 points at one stage.
But the home side managed to find some late majors, led by a great roving goal from Carafa to bring the margin back to just five points at quarter time.
Lower Plenty continued to bring its attacking pressure style into the second term with Porter and Ben Paterson providing strong leading options inside 50.
After taking only one mark inside 50 during the first term, Eltham decided to send Luke Wachinger and Michael Still into the forward line and it paid dividends almost immediately with both combining for three marks and two goals in the term.
The contest remained tight throughout the second quarter, but it was the Bears who were able to keep a two-point lead at half time.
In a much anticipated third quarter it was Eltham who made the quick break with Macaffer and Lewis Glasgow’s strong efforts in the midfield giving the Panthers repeat inside 50 entries.
Lower Plenty struggled to keep the ball inside their attacking half, accumulating just five inside 50s and two behinds for the quarter – their first goal-less quarter this season.
Macaffer and Jye Lorey led the way in the forward line as the ladder leaders slotted home five majors from 14 inside 50 entries to lead by 31 points at three quarter time.
In a bid to put the pressure back on the home side, the Bears found a goal early in the last through Clint Monger to bring the margin back to 23 points.
But an inaccurate Lower Plenty allowed Eltham to take full advantage of the contest, adding an extra two majors to the score-line to run out 36-point winners.
The Panthers will now look to keep their undefeated run intact when they take on winless Watsonia at Eltham Central Park in Round 9.
Lower Plenty will be hoping to get back on the winners’ list again, but it will not be easy when it comes up against third-placed Diamond Creek at home.
Final score: Eltham 14.14 (98) def Lower Plenty 9.8 (62)