Gippsland Power played an outstanding four-quarter match to defeat the talented Geelong Falcons at IKON Park on Saturday.
The Power went into the TAC Cup match with the inclusion of hardball winner Nash Holmes, who returned to the list from a groin injury.
Under 16 player Aidan Quigley was another positive inclusion, but the Power was still missing Josh Dunkley due to VFL commitments and talls Sam Skinner, Ryan Hearn and Harry McKay to injury.
The Power were under pressure to secure their spot in the 2015 finals series after a string of narrow losses, including their previous encounter with the Falcons.
Early on Aloysio Ferreira and Connor Ambler combined to find Linc Robinson who slotted the Power’s first from beyond the 50-metre line.
With Gippsland seizing the early initiative, it applied its trademark pressure and Tyler Hillier found Ben Ainsworth who kicked accurately.
As if inspired, Ben McKay applied his brand of physical pressure on the Falcons and this time Tom Papley capitalised on his hard work.
From the resulting centre-bounce, Josh Patullo and Hillier combined and Robinson exhibited skill to kick another major.
In contrast to the Power’s excellent finishing, the Falcons were missing their hard-won opportunities, and Ainsworth made them pay when he roved the pack and slotted the ball home for another goal.
Great teamwork from Nash Holmes, Ben Dessent and Patullo gave Ainsworth another goal, his third for the term.
Statistics showed Gippsland had kicked six goals from 12 forward entries – a huge improvement on past performances.
The Power had kept the Falcons goalless for the opening quarter and had a 31-point lead by the first change.
In previous matches, the Power had lost the momentum after making a positive start but seemed destined to take charge in the second term.
Some more excellent forward pressure allowed Ainsworth to find Robinson and the Power had the all-important first goal of the quarter.
The Power could only manage one goal for the term, but the Falcons were even more wasteful, kicking only four more points to remain goalless at half-time.
In the early minutes of the third quarter, the Power created some excellent scoring opportunities but missed easy goals.
The Falcons punished this wastefulness with their first goal on the rebound and the pressure was on the Power to respond.
They answered the challenge with Kade Renooy kicking truly.
Once again, hard work by Holmes and Hillier resulted in a chance for McKay to join the party, and he answered the call with a fine goal.
Late in the quarter the Falcons kicked their second major but, crucially, the Power, through Holmes, Papley and Ainsworth, set up Matt De Bruin to kick a goal that gave them a 42-point lead by the last change. The Power scored first as McKay goaled from a free kick.
The Falcons then took advantage of a free kick and scored another goal after finally being able to exploit a rare turnover.
As if inspired, the Power stormed out of the centre bounce and Patullo, Ferreira and Nathan Voss found Robinson who again marked well and kicked truly.
Will Leslie then found Robinson who kicked his fifth for the match.
The Power then stepped things up with Ainsworth finding Tom Hobbs who scored a goal as Gippsland went on to record a convincing 45-point victory.
Gippsland has the bye this weekend before facing top team the North Ballarat Rebels at home.
1 North Ballarat Rebels 48
2 Dandenong Stingrays 44
3 Murray Bushrangers 40
4 Oakleigh Chargers 36
5 Eastern Ranges 34
6 Geelong Falcons 34
7 Gippsland Power 26
8 Calder Cannons 26
9 NSW/ACT Rams 20
10 Sandringham Dragons 18
11 Tasmania 14
12 Queensland 8
13 Northern Knights 8
14 Bendigo Pioneers 8
15 Northern Territory 4
16 Western Jets 4