Despite missing a handful of key players, South Bunbury showed it had too much class for the Collie Eagles on Sunday as it claimed a 42 point win at Hands Oval.
With important players Liam McKenna, Brent Latch and Leigh Kohlmann all unavailable, the Tigers had to change up its midfield and forward mix and it worked to perfection as they dominated the midfield battle all day.
The Tigers regularly beat Collie in the clearance battle all day and moved the ball with ease to give their forwards every opportunity to kick a winning score.
South Bunbury took advantage of its early opportunities and took a two-goal lead within the first eight minutes of the game after Jack Deschamp and Will Butler hit the scoreboard.
The Eagles finally turned up about 10 minutes into the game and started to get their hands on the ball, although they struggled to hit a target inside the forward 50 arc.
Collie got its first real chance on goal when Jayce Fontana received a free kick directly in front about 11 minutes into the game and slotted the goal.
But the Eagles didn’t make the most of their time with the ball, regularly missed targets by foot, and were kept scoreless for the remainder of the quarter.
The Tigers took control of the game again late in the term and Jay Crossman soccered home another goal in time on to give the Tigers a 15 point lead at quarter time.
While the Eagles fought hard in the second term, they could do little to stop the Tigers regularly pushing the ball forward.
As they have several times this year, the Eagles’ defenders stood up and kept their team in the game.
Mat Michael continued his great season by taking a large number of contested marks, while Teale De Angelis and Corey Gulvin battled hard against the barrage.
The defence and some inaccuracy in front of goal limited the Tigers to just two goals, kicked by Deschamp and Ethan Nordahl.
The goals were negated by majors to Paul Rinder and Liam Reuben at the other end as the Tigers could only extend the margin to 17 points at half time.
The Eagles’ horror run with injury continued again, with Adam Bignell, Taine Scolari and Blake Shanahan all suffering hamstring injuries and Bailey Moloney dislocating his elbow – all in the first half – which left Collie with no one on the bench in the second half.
The lack of rotations showed in the third term as the tiring Eagles struggled to keep up with South Bunbury, who were able to find free players all around the ground.
The game was in danger of getting out of hand as the Eagles had no answer to the Tigers consistent forward pressure and four unanswered goals pushed the margin out to 45 points by three quarter time.
However it could have been worse as South Bunbury missed several simple chances to further punish the Eagles on the scoreboard.
It looked like the final quarter was heading down the same path when Cole Sawyer snapped home the Tigers’ 10th goal of the day early in the term, but the Eagles were able to stop the Tigers from pushing the margin out too far.
The Eagles kept South Bunbury to just the one goal in the final term as they took control again late and looked likely to drag the margin back in.
Locking the ball in their forward half, the Eagles were able to peg a goal back late when Reuben found himself all alone in the goal square for his second.
However the Eagles found themselves continuing on with the Tigers’ inaccuracy in front of goal and kicked seven behinds to go with their one goal as South Bunbury claimed the 10.15 (75) to 4.9 (33) win.
Collie Eagles coach Seth White said the Tigers’ midfield dominance was the key to their victory.
“They were really good around the clearances – they killed us there – and their entries into the forward 50 were really good,” he said.
“They just ran over the top of us.”
White said the turning point in the game came in the second half when the Eagles had no players left on the bench.
“It was another one of those days – we lost four before half time again,” he said.
“To play with 18 from about 15 minutes into the first quarter really hurt us.
“We spoke about sticking with them but we lost all our rotations so we struggled to get the ball in [the forward half] ... and ultimately we just run out of soldiers.”
White said while it was frustrating to have so many injuries, it would set the club up for the future by giving young players more experience.
“We worked it out that I’ve used 42 players this year in the league team which is ridiculous, but it’s also good,” he said.
“Our young blokes across half back were really good again – young Jack Dye in only his second game and Kolbee Fleay, who has probably only played a handful.
“We’re looking to the future and planning to head in the right direction in 12 months time.”
White said his focus for the remaining month of the season was to find more avenues to goal.
“We’ll have to make a few changes. Obviously we’re not scoring enough so we might have to free a few blokes,” he said.
The Eagles will host Carey Park at the Collie Recreation Ground on Saturday, August 4.