North Heidelberg rallied in the last quarter to win a four-point thriller against Bundoora, with the Bulldogs surviving a shot after the final siren to win their fifth game of the season.
The Bulldogs secured a 9.7 (61) to 8.9 (57) win at Shelley Reserve in the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 top-of-table clash, yet ironically slipped to third on the ladder after being leapfrogged by West Preston-Lakeside and Greensborough on percentage.
A must-win game following a surprise loss to Whittlesea in Round 5, the Bulldogs returned to the winners’ list and ended Bundoora’s four-match winning streak in the process in a game that had everything.
Despite not leading at any change, North Heidelberg hit the front when forward Braidyn Hirt scrambled a goal off the ground in the final minutes.
Just as it looked like the Bulldogs had secured victory, Bundoora star Sam Lloyd marked inside 50m in the final ten seconds of the game. His shot from 50m on the final siren just faded right to deny the Bulls victory.
With a spot in the top-three up for grabs, both sides had plenty to play for. And in a tightly contested first quarter, tension regularly boiled over as the sides looked to assert themselves.
Kicking with the wind in the opening term, Bundoora capitalised and took a 15-point lead into quarter time. The Bulls should have been further in front were it not for Mitch Dillon and Ryan McGhie steading the ship in defence for the Bulldogs.
Bailey Thompson, John Jorgensen and Sam Lloyd registered majors in muddy conditions for the Bulls, while Jared Crosbie booted the only Bulldogs goal of the quarter.
At quarter time Bundoora coach Michael Ryan was pleased with how his side had started the game but urged his troops to be disciplined and play the ball.
“Keep putting your head over the footy and we’ll be the beneficiaries on the scoreboard. Don’t overuse the football, gain territory and play smart football,” Ryan said.
Though Bundoora looked the more poised side in the first quarter, North Heidelberg would assert itself on the contest with the wind in the second quarter. The Bulldogs kicked two goals, while holding the Bulls goalless to trail by a solitary point at the main break.
The home side’s midfield lifted, with Curtis Brown coming into the game to give his side much needed outside run, while Doug Morris was a bull in the center and persistently drove the ball forward.
Jackson Davies was a calming presence in the backline for Bundoora, with his intercept marking and strength in the contest a big help to keep the Bulls ahead.
Goals came at a premium in the opening half, but the play opened in the third, with the sides kicking four goals each. Sam Lloyd and Liam Nunan had a shootout during the term, with Lloyd booting three goals for the Bulls, while Nunan scored two for the Bulldogs.
The Bulls were able to open a 12-point lead late in the third quarter, before North Heidelberg surged with two goals in quick succession to level the scores at 7.6 (48) apiece at the final change.
At three quarter time North Heidelberg coach Jason Heatley instructed his forwards to be damaging in the last quarter.
Brayden Hirt answered the call with his soccer goal inside the final five minutes putting his side five points up, much to the delight of the North Heidelberg faithful.
There would be one last twist in the tale. In a last-ditch passage of play, the Bulls scrappily drove the ball forward, with Lloyd bobbing up to take a mark, only for his post-siren shot to narrowly miss from 50m while kicking into the strong wind.
It was a devastating fate for the Bulls, who have turned a corner in 2021, while North Heidelberg again showed its ability to find a way to win from behind, having also clawed its way back to beat Montmorency in its previous home game.
Final score: North Heidelberg 9.7 (61) def Bundoora 8.9 (57)
Goal Kickers: B. Hirt 3, L. Nunan 2, J. Bulman 2, C. Howden-Crhak, J. Crosbie
Best Players: D. Morris, L. Nunan, K. McDonald, A. Daw, C. Le Fanu, M. Dillon
Goal Kickers: S. Lloyd 4, J. Jorgensen, J. King, B. Thompson, K. Proctor
Best Players: J. Davies, I. McMillan, B. Thompson, L. Collins, Z. Barker, S. Lloyd