The second part of the split round featured Tatura up against the fourth placed Rochester in the match of the round.By Doug Miller
Paul Kirby returned from injury and Brett Nankervis also came into the team replacing Alex O’Reilly and Daniel Flynn.
The match was an opportunity for the Bulldogs to stake a claim for second spot on the ladder and the all important double chance in the finals.
With so much at stake it was disappointing to have the team produce one of its worst performances for the season, with the Tigers running out comfortable 29 point winners.
Played in good conditions with a wind favouring the southern end, it was to be Rochester who had the advantage in the first term, and after a fierce opening, they were able to string together a run of goals through precise ball use and preparedness to run hard leaving their Tatura opponents in their wake.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs this opening was to set the pattern for most of the game.
When the Bulldogs did gain possession they all too frequently turned the ball over with poor disposal.
Some of this was due to the intense pressure being applied and some was simply poor execution of the skill.
Rochester’s two key forwards Grant Weekes and Luke Gestier were prominent early with Gestier strong on the lead and deadly accurate with his shots on goal.
Nick Grigg was the sole goal kicker for the term.
The margin at the first break had opened out to 29 points which interestingly was to be the final margin.
Kirby made his presence felt at the ball ups and he was supported by an under siege midfield led by Rian McGough and James Sullivan.
With the assistance of a strong breeze, which some knowledgeable supporters thought was worth up to five goals, the second term was approached with optimism.
Once again a skill turnover gifted Rochester the opening goal.
Looking flat all over the ground and being second to the ball, the Dogs needed a spark and this was provided by Billy Hicks (four goals) and fellow small man James Sullivan. His long goal at the 10 minute mark was quickly followed by a McGough snap and when Sullivan slotted his second for the quarter, the deficit was back to 20 points.
Just as momentum was beginning to swing a 50 m penalty gifted the Tigers their second major for the term.
Tatura answered immediately after some undisciplined play from Rochester resulted in a down field free kick which was converted.
Poor conversion saw the Bulldogs add four goals and five behinds for the term to go in at half-time with a 20-point deficit, both sides having 13 scoring shots with the Tigers accuracy being critical.
The second half opened and it was to be Rochester who came out with intent and their fierce attack on the football combined with superior skills allowed them to slam through five goals to two, opening up a 42-point lead at the final break.
Hicks was outstanding, working his heart out around the ground, finishing with both the Bulldogs goals for the third term.
With a breeze at their backs it was important to get some early scoreboard pressure on, and with Hicks again goaling followed by a major to Ben Waite, the margin was back to 30 points at the five-minute mark of the term.
They say momentum is a big thing and just as Tatura was heading into attack again, an undisciplined free kick gifted the ball back to Rochester and the end result was a goal — the only goal the Tigers were to score for the term.
Tatura dominated the term, however missed opportunities proved costly, and a return of two goals eight behinds will not win games of football against quality opposition, and this was the case.
The final margin probably flattered Tatura a little, the contest being almost identical to the earlier contest played at Tatura with the results being opposite.
It was interesting to note that with the aid of the breeze Rochester slotted through 11 goals seven behinds compared to the Bulldogs six goals 13 behinds.
Once again conversion was an issue and needs to be quickly rectified if the Bulldogs are to be a force come September.
The match showed the improvement in the Tigers and gave the Tatura coaching staff an insight into where they need to be to be competitive against the big boys.
With a game against the lowly ranked Echuca at home next week it will be important for the side to regain the desire and polish up on their skills in the hope that they can regain the early season form that had them one of the premiership favourites.
Score: Tatura 9. 17. (71) lost to Rochester 15. 10. (100).
Goals: B. Hicks 4, J. Sullivan 2, R. McGough 1, N. Grigg 1, B. Waite 1.
Best: B. Hicks, J. Sullivan, J. Wall, P. Kirby, R. McGough, T. Sullivan.
Up against top-of-the-ladder Tigers the Bulldogs included Billy Lovel for his return game after wrist surgery and also Alex O’Reilly returned from senior duties along with Daniel Flynn.
Steve Barrett was a permit player from Katandra, having previously played some senior games with the Shepparton Bears earlier in the season.
The inclusion of these players combined with Mitch Elliott, who has been a senior player this season, gave the Bulldogs a stronger and more competitive team than previous weeks.
The opening term was a real contest with honours pretty even.
It was not until late in the term that the Tigers were able to break the shackles and score some goals.
Flynn and Lovel showed they will be pushing for senior selection with good performances, both working hard to bring team-mates into the game.
The game was a close contest at half-time, however the Tigers showed why they are the top side, in the second half completely outplaying the Bulldogs.
An eight goal to nil third term with the assistance of the breeze blew the game apart.
To the credit of the Tatura team they continued to battle at each contest and at no time did they give up — Josh Thurston played his best game of the season displaying solid skills and good ball use.
Elliott picked up plenty of touches around the ground and his work at the stoppages was terrific.
Matt Pollard and Jack Ballantyne were also strong in defence, repelling many attacks.
In the end it was the depth of talent of Rochester that proved the difference.
Score: Tatura 3. 5. (23) lost to Rochester 13. 12. (90).
Goals: B. Lovel 1, M. Pollard 1, D. Flynn 1.
Best: D. Flynn, B. Lovel, M. Elliott, M. Pollard, J. Ballantyne, J. Thurston.
Coming up against a team in a similar ladder position to Tatura, the Bulldogs entered the contest with hope of securing their fourth win for the season.
The Tigers had first use of the breeze and took full toll slamming on three goals seven behinds to Tatura’s single point.
To the credit of the young pups they bounced back in the second term kicking four goals to one to reduce the margin at half-time to a manageable six points.
Under-16 player Braden McGregor playing on permit finished with two goals and once again showed he is a player with a good future.
Liam Borrelli continued his great form and is also a player with a lot of talent and with a big pre-season he should be pushing to play senior football in 2014.
A five-goal to one second half in favour of the Tigers saw them run out 30-point winners.
Sean Martin and Nick Warner were solid contributors along with Jacob Vraca and Dylan Argus.
Next week against Echuca provides the side with an opportunity to get back on the winners list.
Score: Tatura 5. 7. (37) lost to Rochester 9. 13. (67).
Goals: B. McGregor 2, J. O’Toole 1, D. Argus 1.
Best: L. Borrelli, J. Vraca, D. Argus, S. Martin, N. Warner, B. McGregor.
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