A DEPLETED Gippsland Power outfit did enough to snare four pivotal TAC Cup premiership points against Bendigo Pioneers at the weekend.
With key players missing due to state squad commitments and long-term injury, skilled bottom-agers Nick Mulqueen, Jai Rout, Kade Renooy and Charlie Walsh held their spots for the crucial encounter at Craigieburn.
Starting sluggishly, the Power’s finishing was off key in the opening exchanges until Tom Hobbs took a strong intercept mark and kicked the first goal.
A crumbing goal from Tom Papley extended the lead to 18 points by the end of the first term, which saw the visitor foray into the forward 50 18 times for just two goals.
The Pioneers kicked their first goal for the game early in the second term to sneak back into the contest.
Power’s woes in front of goal continued, hitting the post of three occasions, before Rout finally crumbed a major.
Aloysio Ferreira and Josh Patullo then combined to set up Linc Robinson to kick a vital goal with a clever snap.
Quick interplay between captain Josh Dunkley and Deven Costigan set up a chance for Papley, who claimed a strong contested mark and goal after the half-time siren to hand the visitor a 27 point advantage.
The third quarter has proved problematic for Power throughout the campaign, a trend which continued when Bendigo booted the opener after the break.
Gippsland responded well, but struggled to convert until Dunkley set a more efficient tone and Papley was again able to finish off.
From the resultant centre bounce Matt DeBruin kicked long to set up Robinson for a wonderful mid-air snap.
Another poster broke the run of majors but then Patullo marked well and kicked another vital goal.
A quick reply by the Pioneers brought the Power back to reality, though the margin was still a comfortable 38 points by three-quarter-time.
Bendigo outscored the visitor in the last, but failed to reel back the deficit as the Power won by 33.
Much of the Power roster will use this week’s development round to rest up and prepare for tough games against the Eastern Ranges, Oakleigh Chargers, Murray Bushrangers and Geelong Falcons.
Key players Ben Ainsworth, Nash Holmes and Harrison McKay will return from state duties while Tate Marsh, Will Leslie and Ryan Hearn should also begin to trickle back into the squad from injury.
In another boost, captain Dunkley is almost back to his best after overcoming a back injury.
VICTORIA Country maintained its unbeaten record at the national under 18 championships with a 28 point win over South Australia at Adelaide’s AAMI Stadium.
Gippsland Power players selected in the side were Ben Ainsworth (Morwell), Christian Buykx-Smith (Traralgon ), Nash Holmes (Sale) and Harry McKay (Warragul).
McKay booted two goals to be named among the best on the day.
Vic Country tackles South Australia again in Geelong tomorrow.