Wodonga Raiders have survived a withering final quarter burst to end Myrtleford’s season.
The premiership is now a race in six after the visitors’ thrilling 10.14 (74) to 10.8 (68) win.
Raiders had consistently built on their lead to rack up a six-goal margin by three-quarter time, with no sign of a Saints’ surge.
But in scenes reminiscent of the amazing comeback win over Lavington in round four, Myrtleford charged home with a stirring six-goal burst.
“We thought they might have been off their legs by the third and it was kind of going that way, but they found another cog and made the most of the opportunities,” Raiders’ vice-captain Jack Di Mizio said.
The fightback started when Connor Newnham was tackled by Christian Burgess and Tim Looby found Lachie Dale, who slotted the goal from a tight angle.
Inspirational captain Matt Dussin then landed a belter and when Josh Chapman kicked another beauty, the margin was suddenly three goals.
The teams traded points, but when Myrtleford butchered the ball, as it so often did in the first three quarters, Jydon Neagle’s conversion appeared to settle his young side down.
However, Dale goaled from a 50-metre penalty, Burgess was superb in snaring his first and Rhys Grant added another as the Saints closed to within a goal with seconds left.
Looby then kicked as the siren sounded from 40 metres out on the boundary but it skewed out of bounds.
“I thought we were brilliant early, we kept them to one goal at half-time, and could have been 10 or 11 goals up, we just didn’t take our chances on goal,” Raiders’ coach Daryn Cresswell said.
“But (in the final quarter) they followed us everywhere, they tried to shut us down that way, so when we had seven-eight behind the ball, they came with us.
“I thought their centre bounce work smacked us and their stoppage work.”
Myrtleford didn’t kick a goal between the 12-minute mark of the first term when Dussin took the ball out of the ruck and the nine-minute point of the third when Dale delivered.
From there, they kicked eight to two.
“Today was about applying a certain style with our defence,” Myrtleford coach Leigh Corcoran said.
“It was being a bit more accountable, tighten on the defensive side and we worked to generate that.
“I just thought we didn’t really apply that as well as we would have liked from the start.”
That lacklustre start has ended Myrtleford’s hopes.