RAND-Walbundrie’s finals aspirations survived a huge scare against a determined Billabong Crows with a thrilling five-point win at Rand on Saturday.
In a gripping contest, nothing separated the two fierce rivals at the last change as the Crows clung to a two-point lead.
Despite kicking with a three-goal breeze in the last term the Tigers were forced to dig deep to shrug off the challenge of their less fancied rival and hit the front late in the final term when spearhead Dean Roulstone kicked his fourth goal of the match.
The Tigers then survived a late rally from the Crows who kicked two behinds in the dying stages to hold on for a 14.13 (97) to 13.14 (92) victory.
Tigers coach Daniel Athanitis said it was a lucky escape for his charges who remains the only unbeaten side after four rounds.
“We certainly dodged a bullet,” Athanitis said.
“They had a couple of shots late in the quarter and should have pinched the win in the end.
“They are probably our fiercest rival and we expected them to throw everything at us and will beat some sides if they come to play like that each week.
“The challenge will be over the next six weeks when we play the finals contenders and will get a lot better gauge of where we are at.”
In a major surprise, the Crows lost spearhead Brent Arho in the lead-up after he signed with Riverina club Collingullie-Ashmont-Kapooka during the week.
The loss was offset by the arrival of recruits Jesse Beckhurst, Dalton Guthrie and Nathan Kerr who all played their first match for the Crows.