GIPPSLAND Power kept its TAC Cup finals dream alive with a come-from-behind 13-point win over competition leader North Ballarat Rebels at Morwell on Sunday.
Tom Hobbs set the tone from the first centre bounce with a bone-crunching tackle, but North Ballarat settled and absorb the early pressure best, breaking away with the first three goals of the match.
The Rebels moved the ball with blistering speed, challenging Gippsland to keep up.
After two missed set shots from Tom Papley, Power’s first goal came through Ben McKay.
The two metre tall key position player scooped the ball up on the run like a midfielder and slotted it through from just inside 50.
Great vision from Ben Ainsworth found Papley directly in front, whose mark came seconds before the quarter-time siren.
Papley finally broke his goal kicking hoodoo, giving the team a lift going into the break.
Leading by 17 points at quarter-time, North Ballarat put the foot down in the second term, going on a five-goal-to-nil scoring run as Power’s over handballing and turnovers proved costly.
It was Ainsworth who stopped the Rebels’ scoring run with a goal from the boundary.
It sparked his teammates who lifted their intensity as the quarter wore on.
When Papley ran onto the bouncing ball and dribble kicked through his second goal, Power found a sense of belief despite trailing by 37 points going into half-time.
It seemed like a completely different Power team in the second half.
The dropped marks, overuse of the ball and errors were replaced with slick and confident ball movement from clearances.
Aloysio Ferreria started a five-goal-to-nil run with an unbelievable snap from the pocket that somehow went through.
As each goal was slammed home Power’s confidence grew, and the home side dominated possession.
When the ball did make it into the Rebels’ forward 50, the Power backline was resolute, holding them to just one point for the quarter.
The forward pressure applied by Power resulted in a free kick to Ainsworth right on the three-quarter-time siren.
His shot on goal hit the post and Power went into the final break just one point down.
It was all set up for a thrilling last quarter; the wind had picked up and was blowing across the ground, the sun had disappeared behind the clouds and the game was there for the taking.
North Ballarat kicked the first goal, and when another Ainsworth shot hit the post it seemed as if it was going to be another unlucky end to a close match for Power.
Held for the majority of the match, Lincoln Robinson had other ideas.
The lively forward took two strong contested marks, and kicked two goals within minutes of each other to put Power in front.
North Ballarat was not done with just yet and it answered with a goal of its own to be just one point behind Power.
In a nervous final 10 minutes, Power dominated possession but was unable to convert on the scoreboard.
Peppering the goals, Power kicked five behinds in a row but managed to hold on for a much needed win.
“The way we approached the second half as a team was outstanding, we played the type of footy we wanted to play,” coach Leigh Brown said.
Power will take on Sandringham Dragons on Saturday from 1pm in Morwell for their final home match of the season.