Panton Hill improved its chances of securing a double chance in the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 finals with a commanding 66-point win over Mernda in Round 12.
With Joel McLellan, Scott Conte, Cameron Jordan, Jonty Rushton and Sam Montanaro all sidelined, it had loomed as a danger game for last year’s runner-up against a Demons side on a four-game winning streak.
However, the Redbacks controlled the game from the outset and never looked troubled in the 17.10 (112) to 7.4 (46) triumph at Waterview Recreation Reserve.
The win moved Panton Hill back into second spot on the ladder, jumping ahead of Kilmore on percentage. Both sides have an 8-2 record with six rounds to play ahead of what looms as a gripping battle for the double chance in the finals.
Leading by 16 points at quarter time, the Redbacks had the game in their keeping by half time when ahead by 33 points, before kicking ten goals to five in the second half.
The performance was made even more impressive given the Redbacks were severely limited on the bench throughout the day.
Jack Baines sustained an ankle injury in the opening term, while key forward Matthew Byron was sidelined early in the second half after suffering a head knock in a marking contest. Declan Carson-McLennan was also limited with an injury picked up early in the game.
Despite Byron’s absence, Panton Hill was still able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Rhys Boyden booted another six goals – all of which came prior to three quarter time, while Alek Tsardakis booted four in his first game since Round 7. Boyden’s haul improved his season tally to 51 and an elusive ton may be within reach given his rich vein of form.
Sam Parks and Daniel Freeman both played leading roles in the win. Both were major ball winners through midfield and half forward and each finished with two goals.
The defensive line was just as dominant, led by Brent Ryan, Mitchell Anderson and Ryan Boyden. Ryan and Anderson were regularly able to outmark their opponents, while Boyden won plenty of the ball and applied relentless pressure.
Mernda looked up for the challenge in the opening 10 minutes of the game, but then struggled once Panton Hill gained the upper hand in the midfield.
Anthony Niglia was the Demons’ best across four quarters, while Anthony Bradford and Brad Dimech were among their side’s leading disposal winners.
Despite the forward line looking undersized against Panton Hill’s experienced defensive end, both Riley Edwards and Nicolas Aleksovski showed promising signs, while Tyler Peirce finished with two goals.
Nathan Hendry opened the scoring in the opening minute of the game in what proved to be an early preview for what was in store for the remainder of the day.
Dayne Kellett found a quick reply with a goal from close range and the Demons were able to keep Panton Hill in check over the next ten minutes.
However, a goal to Sam Parks at the 14-minute mark of the quarter proved to be the start of Panton Hill’s dominance. Rhys Boyden followed up with his first later in the quarter and helped the visitors take a 16-point lead into the first break.
They then blew the game wide open with three goals in the opening ten minutes of the second term, before Boyden’s third early into time-on extended the lead to 40 points.
Mernda responded with consecutive majors to Josh Delaney and Tyler Peirce either side of half time and a comeback could have been on the cards given Panton Hill’s injury concerns.
However, two goals to Boyden in three minutes gave control back to Panton Hill, before the Redbacks added another four more to stretch the margin to 55 points.
With a massive blowout looming, Mernda managed to stem the damage thereafter, with the final eight goals shared at four apiece.
Final score: Mernda 7.4 (46) def by Panton Hill 17.10 (112)
Best Players: A. Niglia, R. Edwards, A. Bradford, N. Aleksovski, E. Mills, B. Dimech
Goal Kickers: T. Peirce 2, R. Edwards, J. Delaney, T. Deayton, A. Marino, D. Kellett
Best Players: B. Ryan, R. Boyden, T. Duckworth, S. Parks, D. Freeman, R. Boyden
Goal Kickers: R. Boyden 6, A. Tsardakis 4, S. Parks 2, D. Freeman 2, M. Byron, N. Hendry, D. Carson-McLennan