A goal to Devin McDonald on the final siren helped Banyule maintain its unbeaten start to the 2019 season with a four-point win over Thomastown.
The A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 ladder-leader had trailed by 33 points in the final term but rallied with eight of the last ten goals to win 17.7 (109) to 16.9 (105) at Beverley Road Oval.
In the best game of the season, Banyule took the lead for the first time when Jack Langford’s long-range shot sailed through for a goal at the 23-minute mark of the last term.
However, Thomastown was able to mount its own fightback and took back the lead three minutes later when defender Nicholas Klooster kicked truly following a 50m penalty.
Despite trailing for all but three minutes, Banyule was in front when it counted.
McDonald snuck forward to mark Jacob Mitchell’s kick inside 50m before calmly slotting the goal, with the siren sounding as the ball crossed the line.
Jubilant celebrations followed as Banyule moved a game and percentage clear at the top of the ladder entering the Queen’s Birthday weekend. Thomastown would have snatched first place had it held on for victory.
Riley Loton was a standout for the home side, finding plenty of the football and finishing with three goals. Ben Embleton and McDonald enjoyed good games in defence, while Jack Langford worked hard and finished with three goals.
Matthew Vasilevski was outstanding for Thomastown and broke the lines with his penetration by foot. He had strong support from James Rizzolio, Ben Nesci and Sal Mamone (three goals).
The ruck battle between Tim Martin and Dylan Chapman was absorbing, with both star ruckmen producing key moments for their respective sides.
Chapman produced several pinpoint taps to his midfielders from centre bounces, which led directly to goals for his side, while Martin helped launch Banyule’s revival with a strong last term.
While Thomastown was forced to endure the heartbreak of a gut-wrenching defeat, the club confirmed itself as a legitimate premiership contender and was the better side for much of the game.
The visitors kicked the opening two goals via great snaps by Anthony Capeci and Shannon Ball and led by 22 points midway through the first term when Jordan Cugnetto put through a checkside from deep in the forward pocket.
Banyule rallied with late goals to Loton and Kye Yodgee to cut the deficit to nine points at quarter time, but Thomastown was able to take back momentum in the second term.
Goals to Jacob Osei-Duro and Ball helped Thomastown reclaim a 21-point advantage, with Ball’s second one for the highlights reel after slamming the ball through via a volley from mid-air.
Thomastown had done well to quell the influence of Banyule stars Brent Stanton and Scott Gumbleton, however it was Loton and Reuben Blackmore-Moore who kept their side in the contest with goals two minutes of each other.
The sides shared four goals during time-on of the second term, with Thomastown taking a ten-point advantage into half time.
Scoring dried up during the third quarter, with only four goals kicked in the opening 23 minutes of the term. Then Thomastown broke the game open with three goals in five minutes via Capeci and two to David Folino to take a 27-point lead into the last.
The visitors looked to have the game sealed when Nesci slammed through another in the opening 20 seconds of the final quarter to take a match-high 33-point lead.
However, in the final 25 minutes Banyule demonstrated the brand of football which has it pinned in as the early-season flag favourite.
Gumbleton and Mitch Lovell combined for four majors in six minutes to help the home side close within seven points by the 13-minute mark, before Mamone snuck one in against the run of play for Thomastown.
Banyule piled on the next three goals to take the lead, but it looked like Thomastown would hold on for victory when Klooster kicked his first goal at senior level.
It was fitting that such an epic contest came down to the final moment – with McDonald’s match winner on the final siren helping Banyule claim the great escape.
Final score: Banyule 17.7 (109) def Thomastown 16.9 (105)
Goal Kickers: S. Gumbleton 3, R. Loton 3, J. Langford 2, M. Lovell 2, R. Blackmore-Moore 2, B. Stanton, M. Johnston, D. McDonald, M. Italia, K. Yodgee
Best Players: R. Loton, B. Embleton , T. Martin, J. Langford, D. McDonald, M. Italia
Goal Kickers: S. Mamone 3, S. Ball 2, D. Folino 2, A. Capeci 2, B. Nesci, J. Rizzolio, J. Osei-Duro, N. Klooster, D. Caruso, M. Vasilevski, J. Cugnetto
Best Players: J. Rizzolio, B. Nesci, M. Vasilevski, S. Mamone, S. Ball, D. Chapman