The Collie Eagles responded to a disappointing fortnight on the field with a resounding 37 point win over Carey Park on Saturday.
Having kicked just four goals over the previous two weeks, improving the scoring output was the focus for the Eagles and they responded with their highest score of the season in the 11.14 (80) to 6.7 (43) victory.
Eagles coach Seth White played around with the magnets ahead of the game and it worked to perfection as regular forward Blair Malatesta lit up the midfield from the first bounce.
Malatesta was involved in everything going forward the Eagles, picking up a number of clearances, and also kicked the first goal of the game when he received a 50 metre penalty inside the centre square that moved him into range.
The Eagles dominated the first quarter and played to the wet conditions much better than the Panthers, who had a very limited amount of chances to hit the scoreboard.
Key forward Joel Houghton doubled the Eagles’ advantage midway through the quarter when he slotted a set shot from the boundary for his first goal in three weeks.
It took until part way into the second quarter for Carey Park to finally slot through its first goal, when Jordan Yarran received a 50 metre penalty and his set shot from directly in front just cleared the pack on the goal line.
Although the Eagles had the clear dominance of the game, they struggled to find targets inside the forward half of the ground, allowing the Panthers defenders to continuously rebound the ball out of the backline.
The Eagles were able to manage just the one goal in the quarter, with Bailey Moloney getting his foot to a ball that fell from a scramble in the goal square, along with six behinds to hold just a three goal lead at the long break.
However it took less than a minute into the third quarter for the Eagles to add another as Houghton bagged his second after receiving a downfield free kick for a late bump on Malatesta seconds after the first bounce.
Houghton followed it up with a third from another set shot moments later before Paul Rinder pushed the margin out to six goals with a set shot of his own.
With the Eagles suffering two first half injuries – a shoulder injury to Jakob Pilatti and a neck injury to Jason Roney – they began to tire in the third quarter and Carey Park took the opportunity to make its charge.
The Panthers, who had looked outclassed all day, finally clicked into gear and moved the ball smoothly from end to end as they put through the final three goals of the quarter, from Yarran, Riese Wilkey and Sam Browne.
Trailing by just 17 points at the final change, the Panthers had the momentum and looked confident of overturning the deficit by the final siren.
They got off to a good start with Malek Wallam hitting the scoreboard early in the term, but Moloney kicked a steadier for the Eagles from a tight angle just minutes later.
Moloney’s goal sparked the Eagles as Malatesta capped off his spectacular day with a goal not long after and a great piece of team play between the Eagles resulted in Moloney’s third – taking the margin back out to five goals.
Eli Hill stopped the Eagles’ run with a goal against the flow of play for the Panthers, before the Eagles continued their dominant performance in the final quarter.
Jayce Fontana got his name on the score sheet when he converted a set shot late in the term before Mat Michael floated forward and kicked his fifth goal of the season with a shot after the siren to confirm the 37 point win.
White said the team’s fourth quarter response was the highlight of the day.
“We’ve got a bad habit of [dropping off in the second half] and usually it goes the other way,” he said.
“We had the game in our hands and they challenged us real hard in the third quarter but we held strong and kicked away in the last quarter.
“That was the most pleasing thing … It was a good result for the boys.”
White said he was worried the Eagles hadn’t fully capitalised on their first half dominance.
“During the second quarter I was a bit worried but we just kept it positive at half time,” he said.
“We dominated the game but kicked one goal six in the second quarter and missed some easy ones.
“We just weren’t delivering right and going too deep with our entries but we knew if we just kept working hard we’d get reward.”
White said he was looking forward to this weekend’s trip to Harvey despite the team’s respective ladder positions.
“We’ve got three big games to finish off,” he said.
“We’ll head down to Harvey on Saturday night. I don’t think ladder positions really mean much now and their list is still as good as anyone’s.
“We’ll go down there and have another battle on our hands, but it would be nice to string a couple of wins together.”
J. Houghton 3, B. Moloney 3, B. Malatesta 2, P. Rinder, M. Michael, J. Fontana.
J. Yarran 2, E. Hill, S. Browne, R. Wilkey, M. Wallam.
M. Michael, T. Vernon, P. Rinder, J. Houghton, K. Shanahan, T. DeAngelis.
S. Read, T. Wells, J. Bell, J. Mulholland, J. Yarran, M. Wallam.