Blues run away late to claim first victory of the season

Published on Saturday, March 30, 2024

Author : Doug Long

Epping scored their first win of the 2024 Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 season with a 51-point Good Friday triumph over Lalor at Lalor Reserve.

The Blues had an 18-point lead at half time before kicking eight goals to three in the second half to secure the 15.17 (107) to 8.8 (56) win in front of a strong crowd.

Although the margin of victory was expected by most pundits, the Blues were full of joy at the final siren after claiming just the one triumph in 2023.

“We were happy to get the win and we will take each round as it comes,” Epping coach Brad Hollow said.

Hollow liked the work of Jordan Wilkins, Dallyce Taylor and vice-captain Lucas Aquilina across half back, while also giving praise to the efforts of new midfielders Sebastian Latina and James Tadd. Recruit Michael Gillard settled into the ruck position well, providing first use for his teammates on multiple occasions.

Both teams struggled to settle into the early stages of the game, as the temperature rose to 30 degrees.

It led to a low-scoring first term, but that didn’t stop dangerous small forward Archer Bugden kicking both of the Blues’ opening quarter goals, before a late major from Luke Decarne kept the Bloods in touch at the first break.

Players found their groove in the second quarter, which would prove to be a goal fest. Epping scored five for the term, highlighted by an excellent mark and goal from Alec Buchan at the 23rd minute mark.

Meanwhile a trio of majors from returning Lalor forward Sam Rexhepi helped his side kick four goals in the same period.

The Bloods went to the main break three goals down but were still in the contest.

Their continued fight and competitiveness would still see Lalor just 17 points adrift well in the third term, but three late goals to the Blues pushed the margin out to 34 points at the last change.

The flurry of goals almost slammed the door shut on the hosts’ chances, but they did have the advantage of a slight breeze at their backs in the final term.

At the final huddle, new Lalor coach Lance Whitnall urged his players to take the game on through the corridor, but also to run back hard to defend when their opponents had possession.

Local fans watched on in the hope that the Bloods could snare a couple of early majors to gain momentum, however goals were hard to come by early in the final quarter.

Jake Conway took a strong contested mark and converted truly to get the all-important first goal of the last term for Epping. Adrian Alfonsi then kicked his third for the Blues shortly after to cap off a great afternoon for the forward as well as seal the win for his side.

Lalor only managed a solitary goal in the final term, but it was a terrific effort, as Justin Bentley nailed a long bomb from well outside 50.

Despite the loss, many Bloods fans noted the improvement from recent seasons where triple digit losses were commonplace. Twelve players made their senior debuts for the Bloods in the match.

“We were in the game for three quarters; we just need to sustain it for longer,” Lalor coach Lance Whitnall said.

Whitnall was pleased with having Sam Rexhepi back at the club to provide a target up forward. He had praise also for recruit Nathan Parkes who took numerous strong marks in defence. Heath Patton also stood out in midfield.

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