WITH several key players on Victoria Country duty, the depth of the Loy Yang B Gippsland Power squad was severely tested, and found lacking, in its match against the Murray Bushrangers.
Despite dominating most statistical battlegrounds, Power fell agonisingly short as the Bushrangers snatched the win with a goal after the final siren.
Power went into the match without nine of its best 18 players due to state representation or injury.
Alex Saunders, Josh Cashman, Jordan Cunico, Bohdi Walker, Lucas Webb, Jack Leslie and Jake Thomas were in Darwin for the opening game of the national under 18 championships while Aaron Heppell and Ben Kearns were injured.
Wes Russell, Nick Dinsdale and Ben Northover came in to the side for their first TAC Cup games while Troy Toussaint, Brenton Rees, Doug Grining and Ash Di Ciero returned to the lineup.
Power wasted early scoring opportunities and it took some skill and vision from Nate Paredes to set up Josh Scott to get things moving.
The Bushies punished Power’s inaccuracy by scoring two easy majors late in the term to lead by five points, despite Power making twice as many entries into the forward 50.
It was a more positive Power side early in the second term and Scott set the tone with a clever check-side goal.
He then turned provider with a sneaky handball to Alex Carr who bombed a long major.
Lachie Channing was another to kick long and straight and Scott finished off a good patch with a goal of his own.
Costly turnovers kept the Power in check as the Bushies kicked two easy goals to stem the momentum.
Paredes took advantage of a Scott free kick to score a vital goal for the Power and by the long break led by 10 points.
In the third term the Bushrangers seized the initiative with two soft goals on the rebound after the Power wasted more scoring opportunities. Some good work by Brandon Baillie set up Channing for a great snap but Power gave away another gift goal with poor decision making.
The Bushrangers extended their lead to 11 points by the last change.
Power continued to waste scoring opportunities despite dominating play for the first half of the final term.
It took another Carr “special” from outside 50 to break the drought but easier chances were squandered closer to goal.
Di Ciero found Scott who marked strongly and kicked what appeared to be the winning goal, but Murray scored two majors in the dying seconds to snatch a surprise win.
Power dominated inside 50 entries by 17 to 10 and held the ball there for much of the quarter, and had 10 scoring opportunities to the Bushies’ two.
Tom Muir was one veteran player who responded manfully to the challenge of leading the less experienced boys.
He not only defeated dangerous key forwards but backed his judgement well to constantly set up play with clever use of the ball on the run and after winning aerial contests.
Up forward Scott again did the tough stuff against several opponents by winning contested marking contests and finished it off with four vital goals.
His work rate at ground level was equally impressive.
Russell had the crucial job to fill the gap created by the loss of the team’s two ruckmen to state duties.
He rose to the occasion and did a wonderful job in the rucking contests, took important contested marks around the ground and worked equally hard once the ball was at ground level.
Power now needs to regroup for the Northern Knights at home on Saturday.
Again several players are out for state duties but the injury list should be shorter.
After missing several games with a broken arm, young defender Christian Bukyx-Smith could return and add important rigidity to the Power defence.