WANGARATTA Rovers threatened to beat Lavington at its own game when the Panthers withstood a spirited Hawks in a “press off” at W.J. Findlay Oval on Saturday.
The Hawks led by 16 points at half-time as Lavington struggled to cope with Rovers’ intensity around the contest.
A second-half explosion from Adam Flagg, along with the all-round dominance of Adam Prior, helped steer the Panthers to a comfortable 36-point victory.
Lavington kicked 10 of the game’s final 12 goals as the Hawks faded out of the contest.
Lavington coach James Saker was really pleased with the way his players responded.
“It’s not an easy place to come and play, let alone when you’re down at half-time,” he said.
“Rovers are a very good footy club and very hard to beat here.
“Their pressure created turnovers, which didn’t allow us to set up and they got out the back too easily.
“This game was a classic example of showing that if you’re not switched on, there’s going to be no easy games of footy in this competition.
“It was a really good learning experience for us and to get four points out of it, as well, was great.”
The midfield dominance of Sam Carpenter, Jamie Sheahan and Lochy Dornauf helped give Rovers the early jump and they led by up to 22 points 13 minutes into the second term.
Rovers have traditionally struggled with Lavington’s press and decided to fight fire with fire under new coach Paul Maher.
The Hawks pushed numbers up the ground and put the Panthers under immense pressure.
A weight of numbers performance in the second half saw Lavington take control and ultimately run away with a comfortable victory.
Prior’s battle with Tyson Hartwig was worth the price of admission alone.
The reigning Doug Strang medallist put in his best performance since joining the Panthers and clearly had the better of one of the competition’s premier defenders.
Adam Butler and Brant Dickson dominated in the air around the ground, while Sam Harris and Mitch Palmer provided run through the midfield.
Will Lenehan impressed on debut.
Flagg’s third quarter was outstanding after a quiet first half.
“We were gutted,” Maher said.
“You just can’t go out, as adult men, and play such a positive brand of footy in a half and then go out after half-time and turn it all around.
“You just can’t do it.
“It was a game of two distinctively different halves.
“In the first half, we enacted everything we wanted to do.
“We had a zone going where we outplaying Lavi and were really positive in everything we were doing.
“We went into the rooms at half-time ready to come out and do it all again but we didn’t.”
In an added boost for the Panthers, they were without star trio Kade Stevens, Luke Garland and Justin Koschitzke.
Stevens will return from thigh troubles this week, while reigning best and fairest winner Garland could play his first game for the year in the reserves.
Garland has been battling a bulging disc in his back.