LAVINGTON survived a tough and uncompromising examination before racing to a 44-point win over old foes Yarrawonga at J.C. Lowe Oval on Saturday.
While the Panthers have faltered at crucial stages in recent big matches, it was a different story on this occasion as they soaked up the pressure before finishing with a five-goal-to-one burst.
The loss leaves Yarrawonga teetering on the finals tightrope and virtually rules it out of finishing in the top three.
Former St Kilda star Justin Koschitzke led the way with his most influential game for Lavington.
The big forward was a tower of strength with three first-quarter goals and another three in the last when the Panthers needed him most.
Pigeon co-coach Brendan Fevola was held by James Saker before leaving the ground midway through the third term with an ankle injury.
Saker, who was among the Panthers’ best in a complete team effort, was justifiably satisfied with his charges.
“When the opposition apply physical pressure it is generally the tolerance level that makes or breaks you — ours was excellent today,” Saker said.
“They are a tough side to play but I thought today we gave as well as we got and gave back a bit more.
“The third quarter was a genuine arm wrestle and we stood up well and were very happy to be in a good position going into the final quarter.”
Veteran midfielder Kade Stevens looks set to return as early as this week from a wrist injury, while Matt Pendergast, Jay Banks and Will Lenehan should resume after the bye.
Panthers’ Matt Sharp, Sam Harris, Luke Garland and Tom Hargreave formed a solid and aggressive midfield that matched their opponents well.
Nick Meredith, Jonathon Spina and the evergreen John Hunt provided Saker with great support, with Meredith in particular impressive at crucial moments.
While Yarrawonga missed ruckman Brandon Symes with an ankle injury, youngster Riley Welsh staged a terrific tussle with Panther Tom Yensch.
Pigeons co-coach Drew Barnes, who successfully completed his second match back from injury, was still upbeat after the match.
“I couldn’t complain about our effort and hardness at the ball, but our skill level was not up to scratch today,” he said.
“We missed a chance in the third quarter to put some scoreboard pressure on them.
“‘Kosi’ was big for them and got them going, they rebounded well off half-back and deserved the win.”