The Collie Eagles scored the upset of the season on Saturday when they ended ladder leader Donnybrook’s nine-game winning streak at VC Mitchell Park.
Battling against heavy rain for most of the afternoon, the Eagles restricted the Dons to just two goals for the day on the way to a 30-point victory.
The Dons, who beat the Eagles by nine goals the last the two sides met, came into the game as heavy favourites and got off to a flying start when Sean Lynch put the first goal on the board within 30 seconds after a quick centre clearance.
Knowing the midfield battle would determine the game, the Eagles made the tactical decision to send defender Matt Blackford into the middle to tag Hayward medal favourite Chris Atthowe, while Talan Michael was given the job of curbing the influence of Landmark Carnival best and fairest Jace Cormack.
The decisions paid off as neither of the Donnybrook stars had their usual impact on the game, despite the Dons looking to have the momentum in the first quarter.
The Eagles got the chance to peg back a goal about 10 minutes later when Joel Houghton marked just out of range and hit up Blair Malatesta deep in the forward pocket.
Malatesta made no mistake with the conversion and the scores were level once again.
As the rain kicked into gear, clean possession became a rarity and the ball was knocked from end to end without either side looking likely to score.
It took until the midway point of the quarter before Sam Lowrie capitalised on an Eagles’ mistake on the goal line and snapped the Dons’ second goal from just five metres out.
The Dons managed to hold onto the five point lead for the remainder of what was a hard-fought but low scoring quarter.
But it was all downhill for Donnybrook from that point onwards, as the Dons were restricted to just four behinds for the following three quarters.
The Eagles came out of the quarter time break with a lot of passion and confidence, but couldn’t get the score on the board.
Fresh off captaining the Landmark team, Mat Michael continued his strong season and looked to be virtually the only man on the field who could hold a mark, stopping almost every forward 50 entry the Dons made.
The Eagles finally took the lead about halfway through the term when Houghton took a mark on the lead and converted the set shot.
The goal was followed by another minutes later when Jason Roney received a 50 metre penalty that brought him within range.
The Eagles held a nine-point lead at the main change and they were able to push that out to 14 points by three quarter time, with Rhys Chappell kicking the only goal in a quarter that saw both teams struggle to get the ball inside scoring range.
With an upset looking likely, the Eagles kicked up the pressure even further in final term.
The Eagles were able to keep the Dons on the back foot and lock the ball in their forward half for the whole quarter.
Chappell kicked an early goal to become the game’s only multiple goal kicker before a beautiful clearance from Liam Reuben hit Matt Blackford on the lead late in the term.
Blackford’s set shot looked to fall just short, but somehow made it through a pack of about 10 players to cross the goal line untouched for the sealer.
The goal, which was Blackford’s first in almost three years, capped off his best on ground performance as the siren sounded on the Eagles’ 6.10 (46) to 2.4 (16) win.
Collie Eagles coach Seth White said the key to the victory was the defensive work of his team across the ground.
“It was a really good win,” he said.
“I think they kicked two goals in the first ten minutes and then didn’t kick one after that, so I was really proud of the defence.
“But that was also due to a lot of pressure up the ground. I think the most pleasing thing was our forward pressure with Blair [Malatesta], Bailey [Moloney] and Rhys Chappell up there … we were able to keep the ball in our end for a lot of the time.”
He also nominated the defensive roles of Blackford and Talan Michael as important to the win.
“Blacky’s job on Atthowe and Talan’s on Jace [Cormack] were better than what I thought we could get out of them,” he said.
“Obviously they (Atthowe and Cormack) are their top end talent so I said to our boys that we’ll try and take their top end out and back our lower end to be better than theirs, and that was the result.”
White said the win showed how even the competition was this season.
“Since we last played them, they won nine in a row and we won one out of nine,” he said.
“But then we come here and beat them. It just shows that if the other team’s on and you’re not, that’s what will happen.”
The win was the Eagles’ fourth for the season and the second in the past three games.
For the Dons, the loss meant their lead on top of the ladder dropped to just one game over Eaton.