ADAM Flagg proved the difference as Lavington scored an uninspiring 43-point win over Myrtleford in textbook winter conditions on Saturday.
Flagg booted five goals in a standout performance as the Panthers kept pace with the Albury juggernaut at the top of the ladder.
“He was clearly the best player on the ground,” Lavington coach James Saker said after the win.
With a strong breeze favouring the scoreboard end of Lavington Oval, the Panthers burst out of the blocks to surge to a 30-point lead at quarter-time.
However, the Saints responded with an impressive second term that saw them pull the deficit back to 11 points at the main change.
Flagg set the match alight with three goals in the third quarter, taking several strong marks in tough conditions for a marking forward.
The Panthers led by 38 points at three-quarter-time and responded well, against the breeze, to increase their advantage by game’s end.
“I was probably happiest with our final quarter,” Saker said.
“Our second half was a lot better.
“Myrtleford had us under a fair bit of pressure in the second quarter and probably should have been level with us at half-time.
“The boys got back to basics a bit better after that and played a smarter brand of footy.”
Matt Pendergast and Sam Harris both made promising returns from injury, with Adam Prior set to return after the bye.
Prior was moving freely as he watched on and did not look hampered by his medial strain.
In a blow, youngster Tom Plunkett suffered a hamstring strain.
Saker played a smart game deep in defence, keeping Jarrod Hayse goalless and sending plenty of long bombs inside 50 for the Panthers.
Myrtleford co-coach Brad Murray was fantastic in defeat.