Thurgoona Bulldogs revel in tough going | PHOTOS

THURGOONA charged into the Tallangatta and District league’s top- three for the first time this season with a 45-point win over reigning premier Barnawartha on Saturday.

While the conditions at Thurgoona suited the Bulldogs more than their fleet-footed opponents, it was impossible not to be impressed by Jason Sheather’s line-up as it held the visitors goalless for the first half.

“Barnawartha is a really good side and I was pleased with the way we started and kept our noses in front,” Sheather said.

“I thought our back six were great.

“Defensively it was probably our best performance of the year.

“They controlled play well all game.”

Thurgoona’s Mark Haydon directed play superbly in the backline and had the better of Tiger star Josh Spence while Mark Bush was again prolific playing across half-back.

Dylan Weeding, Kane Westlow and James Wilson were also rock-solid and Todd Miller was the most damaging forward on the ground with four majors.

Barnawartha was always going to struggle with James McNamara (broken arm) and Matt Ladgrove (thigh) out of the game by quarter-time and its rotations were further hampered by Matt McLinden popping his shoulder and Justin Mull playing under duress.

It was continually forced wide going inside 50 metres by Thurgoona’s midfield and defence but didn’t help itself by squandering several golden scoring opportunities.

The dangerous Jarrod Williams opened Barnawartha’s scoring in the third quarter which sparked a mini-revival that saw the Tigers move within 22 points.

But the effort had taken its toll and a spectacular goal to Bulldog Jordan Miller early in the final quarter snuffed out any hope of a comeback.

“I was proud of the boys,” Barnawartha coach Mark Sarau said after the match.

“We physically had 14 fit blokes in the last quarter and a half and I thought it was a brave effort.

“At the end of the game I praised their bravely.”

Thurgoona made a late change with Luke Donnan being replaced in the side by Dan Cleary while Barnawartha went into the clash without a handful of key players including Mitch Exton, Steve Ramage, Lachie Barter, Jordan Palmer and Matt McNamara.

Tallangatta scored a surprise 18-point win over Beechworth.

With key duo Tyson Smith and Duncan McMaster leading the way, the Hoppers took control with five goals to one in the second quarter and held on for their fourth win of the season.