Eltham demonstrated its premiership credentials with a comprehensive 44-point win over Thomastown in Round 8 of A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2.
The Panthers led from start to finish in the 18.8 (116) to 11.6 (72) victory at Eltham Central Park, which helped them jump the Bears into second spot on the ladder.
Brent Macaffer was dominant in the middle of the ground and set the tone early in the match. Matthew Keys and Darcy Vallance excelled in defence, quelling the Bears attack and setting up the Panthers on the counterattack, while Tim Currie was swung forward and booted five goals.
It was a disappointing showing from Thomastown just one match after nearly upsetting undefeated ladder-leader Banyule. Despite the result, Matthew Vasilevski and Daniel Chadwick fought hard in the middle, while Lukas Fellows was strong in defence.
Eltham flew out of the blocks in the opening term and piled on six goals to two to open a comprehensive 26-point lead at quarter time.
Macaffer opened proceedings with a beautiful long range shot on goal from a tough angle in the opening minute of the game. However, Thomastown quickly replied with a classy three-bounce goal on the run from Shannon Ball.
Eltham was quick to restore its lead, with Josh Merkel curling a goal through from the pocket, before Jesse King worked hard to push forward and kick a goal from close range.
Despite being outplayed in the midfield, Thomastown managed to hang in and a goal against the run of play to Ben Nesci cut the deficit to seven points entering time-on.
Eltham was able to convert its ascendancy into scoreboard pressure late in the term with back-to-back goals from Brandon Freeman and another from Tim Currie giving the home side a big advantage at the main break.
Thomastown started to work their way back into the contest in the second term and two early goals to Joseph Vaccaro and Jacob Osei-Duro cut the margin back to 14 points.
The momentum was quickly swung back Eltham’s way with ruckman Matthew Williamson and rover Anton Woods combining for a superb centre clearance, with Woods finding Tim Currie with a pin-point pass.
Currie booted the set shot, before Merkel booted his second late in the term to move the Panthers 27 points ahead going into half time.
Eltham truly turned it on in the third term with six unanswered goals to blow out the margin to 56 points. Goals to Lane Sinclair, Currie, Gavan Connelly, Daniel Jarvis, King and Adam Oxley were pivotal in setting up a commanding lead.
The Panthers were equally dominant in defence, with Keys and Darcy Vallance shutting down Thomastown’s key forwards, while Williamson often floated back and took several intercept marks.
The three-quarter time message from Thomastown coach Ben Chapman was to get some respectability back on the scoreboard and fight out the game despite the result being beyond doubt.
Thomastown started to find some flair in the final term and kicked four of the opening five goals to cut the margin back to 39 points. Josh Beare was moved forward and provided a strong target – kicking two goals.
Eltham snuffed out any potential comeback with three quick goals to blow the margin back out to 57 points, but Thomastown fought out the game and booted the final two goals to cut the final margin to 44 points.
Eltham will be on the hunt for a fourth-straight win when it hosts St Mary’s in Round 9, while Thomastown heads back to Main Street Reserve to take on Whittlesea which could be a finals-shaping contest.
Final score: Eltham 18.8 (116) def Thomastown 11.6 (72)
Best Players: T. Currie, B. Macaffer, D. Vallance, A. Brovedani, M. Keys, J. King
Goal Kickers: T. Currie 5, J. King 3, B. Freeman 2, J. Merkel 2, D. Jarvis, A. Currie, G. Connelly, B. Macaffer, L. Sinclair, A. Oxley
Best Players: M. Vasilevski, L. Fellows, M. Dirkx, D. Chadwick , C. Toppi, S. Ball
Goal Kickers: S. Ball 3, J. Beare 2, B. Nesci 2, J. Rizzolio, J. Vaccaro, M. Vasilevski, J. Osei-Duro