PREMIERSHIP contender Barnawartha was forced to dig deep to overcome a spirited Chiltern by 10-points at Barnawartha on Saturday.
Last year's preliminary finalists led by 13-points at the final change with both sides booting two goals in the tense last term to hold on for a hard-earned 14.11 (95) to 12.13 (85) victory.
Barnawartha ominously moved to second on the ladder and look the biggest threat to raging flag favourite and undefeated Thurgoona come September.
Chiltern sit third at the half-way point of the season and on present form look assured of contesting its first finals series since 2015.
The fierce rivals were playing for the Laracy Shield, named in honour of Simon Laracy, who died in a workplace accident in 2009.
Tigers coach Peter Cook was relieved to emerge with the four points against the league's most improved side.
"The Laracy Shield means a lot to both clubs and the physicality always goes up a notch in honour of Simon," Cook said.
"We spoke about it before the game, it's more than the four points, it's always a sentimental occasion for the club.
"There's still blokes playing at the club that played with Simon, even though it was a decade ago.
"As long as that connection remains we will always try to rise to the occasion."
Chiltern went into the clash under-manned with defenders Ash Van Klaveren and Rob Phibbs missing, forcing a reshuffle of its back six.
Despite the setback, the visitors were still in striking distance at the last change mainly through the efforts of Chris Anderson, Parker Phelan and Wayne Shannon.
With the match-up for grabs it was the classy Cook who handed his side some breathing space with the first goal of the last term.
Cook booted his fifth of the match to stretch the margin out to 19-points.
Tigers' Josh Spence, Connor Wiffen and Tom Anson also lifted their work-rate and ensured the visitor's always remained at arms-length.
"I think both sides have got a bit more to offer than they showed today," Cook said.
"It was a good, hard, physical contest and I think you will find Brooksey (Luke Brookes) will agree that skill errors cost Chiltern.
"Just as much as our skill errors cost us.
"If one side converted better and capitalised on the mistakes, the result could of went either way.
"But we move into second spot at the half-way point.
"We have got some winnable matches over the next fortnight to consolidate."
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