South Morang got off to a flyer with three early goals and never looked back to defeat Mernda by 22 points at Waterview Recreation Reserve.
The win puts a one and a half game gap between South Morang and Mernda and has the Lions just two points outside the top-four.
Harry Whybrow was a standout in the 11.8 (74) to 7.10 (52) win. He booted the first goal of the day from a long-range set shot which just got over the line.
As well as rucking manfully all day, he added another two goals – both from strong marks.
“That was the real South Morang today,” a contented coach Gary Hall said, after a frustrating few weeks.
A feature of the Lions’ play was the constant pressure applied to the opposition. The Demons scarcely got an easy possession – especially in the first half.
Mernda missed some gettable set shots in the first term. Eventually, Tyler Peirce took a good mark low down and slotted the most difficult shot for the quarter – from 40 out on a 45 degree angle.
Demon fans were hoping for some momentum out of the break, but South Morang had two goals in as many minutes to begin the second stanza.
Alex Colaidis kicked a trademark snap from 30 metres out, then Nathan Bell kicked a long goal on the run. Bell performed admirably in his first senior outing for the club.
There was no goal for over 20 minutes until Nicolas Aleksovski found himself in space inside 50 and booted one for Mernda. It reduced the margin to a manageable 17 points.
But two late goals to Whybrow and Colaidis – on the siren – gave the Lions a handy 28-point buffer at half time.
The Lions made if five unanswered goals with the first three of the third term to open a game-high 46-point lead.
From that moment on, the Demons were always chasing tail and never looked likely to win.
Riley Black had an outstanding third quarter for Mernda as a link man across half forward and seemed to be involved in every forward thrust.
When he finally got on the end of a chain and kicked a goal, his team had booted three straight and looked to have a glimmer of hope.
But Colaidis kicked his third major just before three quarter time to restore a healthy 35-point margin at the last break.
Injuries were taking their toll on both teams. Bojan Marinkovic and James Hewson were both finished for the day in the first half for South Morang.
Daniel Smith and Brad Dimech failed to see out the game for the Demons. Dimech had been useful before his injury.
Mernda needed six goals in the final term to win and had two early on. The busy Anthony Bradford booted the first.
Then Tyson Sparkes kicked a good goal from 45 metres wide out on the run. Living up to his name, he gave the Demons a spark and had also took numerous intercept marks when loose at half back.
The final 20 minutes of the game failed to produce a goal as two tired teams slugged it out. Mernda went forward a lot in the middle stages of the game but couldn’t find the major opening.
“The competition is so close that if you don’t play four quarters, this is what happens,” Mernda coach Paul Derrick said.
Derrick would have been pleased with the work Jesse Inzillo around the ground. James Duclos toiled away well in the ruck and displayed high level handbell skills – often putting the runners into space.
Jake Potter played in attack for South Morang and worked well as a link man across half forward. Debutant Paul Sidhu looked at home in defence, while Nathan Tassell ran out the game well when some of his teammates were almost out of petrol tickets.
South Morang hosts Lalor at Mill Park Lakes Reserve in Round 6 and will be a chance to move into the top-four. Mernda travels to A.E. Cracknell Reserve to tangle with Panton Hill.
Final score: Mernda 7.10 (52) def by South Morang 11.8 (74)
Goal Kickers: T. Sparkes 2, T. Peirce 2, N. Aleksovski, A. Bradford, R. Black
Best Players: T. Sparkes, J. Inzillo, J. Duclos, R. Black, A. Bradford, J. Delaney
Goal Kickers: H. Whybrow 3, A. Colaidis 3, J. Renehan 2, N. Bell, L. Shelton, D. McRae
Best Players: H. Whybrow, N. Bell, J. Potter, T. Hall, L. Failla, R. Jones