TUMBARUMBA confirmed its status as the Upper Murray league benchmark after winning back-to-back premierships against a gallant Bullioh on Saturday.
The Roos ensured they would not be known as one-hit wonders following their 2012 flag win – their first since joining the league in 1972 — and the club has now set its sights on a “three-peat” in 2014.
The victory took the Roos’ unbeaten run to 23 including last year’s decider.
Saturday’s encounter at Tumbarumba never reached great heights and, perhaps oddly, there were few physical confrontations, given the high stakes, but the Roos’ clinical approach was enough to win.
The game opened as if the result was a foregone conclusion with Tumbarumba taking command early, Bullioh doing a lot of ball watching and the crowd mainly talking among themselves.
The Bulldogs started with star player Clint Ried opposed to league goalkicking winner Matt Molkentin in the square and he saw plenty of action as the Roos dominated proceedings to regularly pump the ball well into attack.
Wade McPherson slotted the first major for the Roos which was followed in quick succession by goals to Molkentin and James Burgess before Bullioh stemmed the tide with a six-pointer at the 18-minute mark of the quarter.
However, a spate of three late Tumbarumba goals, including Molkentin’s second, blew the margin out to 37 points at the first break and it was a case of “how far the Roos”?
Nick Molkentin was the standout big man on the ground and was providing the fleet-footed brigade of league best and fairest winner Steve Barnes, Chris Pedler, Jim Waters and the Macintosh brothers with a feast of quality ball.
Bullioh had no answer to the Roos’ systematic surging out of defence and pinpoint passing with the dynamic Matt Howarth involved more often than not — a performance that was rewarded with the VCFL medallion for best on ground.
Dogs’ coach Mark Nichol singled out a couple of his players for a spray at quarter-time as he tried to rev up his troops but it seemed to be of no avail as Tumbarumba had the majority of play early in the second term.
Joel Banister was given the unenviable task of curbing Molkentin’s influence in the place of Clint Ried who had pushed forward and looked more comfortable in doing so.
Molkentin racked up his third goal with a bomb from the arc but Ried’s move up the ground paid dividends when he goaled.
Tumbarumba’s efficient spread coming from defence was hurting Bullioh but Kelven Bailey and Taylor Fenton were solid in repelling several attacks to contain the scoring.
As can only happen in country footy, the ball ended up in the adjacent creek at one stage and the resultant delay while it was retrieved seemed to upset the Roos’ tempo.
Bullioh was taking a more “kick and hope” approach but when mentor Nichol goaled, his side had surprisingly broken even for the quarter.
The Roos were running in numbers while the opposition often found themselves outnumbered.
They had also done their homework on Bullioh’s forwards and applied pressure on the in-form duo of Scott Gigliotti and Luke Welsh to severely restrict their impact.
The third period was more of the same as the defences held sway after the Roos looked threatening in the early stages.
Despite the contrasting playing styles — Tumbarumba’s methodical build-up versus Bullioh’s “bomb it long” approach — a lack of forward pressure allowed three goals apiece to be scored but the Roos were still comfortably ahead by 40 points.
Matt Molkentin was proving to be the difference and saw off a procession of markers to finish the match with six goals.
Fenton began the last stanza by kicking a goal and a point for Bullioh in the first few minutes and a ripple of hope ran through the Dogs’ supporters but, as had been the case throughout, Tumbarumba seemed able to score when needed and Jake Hindmarsh obliged to push the margin out to 46 points.
Then the improbable started to become the possible as Bullioh found renewed vigour to win four clearances in succession and, more importantly, bang on three consecutive goals via the never-say-die trio of Ried, Nichol and Jacob Schliebs to get within 27 points.
However, there were to be no heroics similar to Bullioh’s seven-point loss to Tumbarumba in round 13 and the Roos sealed the game with another major as time ran out.
Ross’ mentor Shane Macintosh was a contented man after taking over the reins from Matt Molkentin this season.
“This is a special side and the last couple of weeks has been about keeping them in the right frame of mind,” he said.
“At the start of the year we identified the type of players we needed and replaced about half of the team but there is no way we expected to go through undefeated.
“We never got ahead of ourselves but were confident that we could win today.
“Bullioh is an experienced finals team and they showed that.”
Macintosh said the club would enjoy the next few days and then sit down to devise a strategy for a hat- trick of flags.