By Jonty Ralphsmith
Cheltenham has defeated Cranbourne at a typically windswept Livingston Reserve to all but lock in the minor premiership.
It was billed as a blockbuster first versus second clash and an opportunity for Cranbourne to make a statement to the competition having lost two of its last three, but Cheltenham flattened any hopes of a home victory.
The Rosellas eventually got scoreboard ascendancy in the final quarter to run away with the game by 70 points, but goals were hard to come by prior to three-quarter time.
At the final break, there had been in excess of 40 scoring shots for just nine goals between the two teams.
Cheltenham dictated general play, winning the midfield and territory battles without putting Cranbourne away.
For periods, the game seemed to enter a monotony of a rushed kick out of Cheltenham’s forward 50, before a Rosella intercept mark led to another scrap inside 50 or scoring shot.
Cranbourne entered the clash having lost two of their past three matches and were on the back foot from the get-go, kicking against the wind in the first quarter.
The Eagles’ rare early forays forward were aggressive, to give forwards Kirk Dickson and Marc Holt a chance with equal numbers ahead of the ball, but were never able to capitalise nor lock the ball in the forward half.
Holt kicked Cranbourne’s first via a free kick in the second quarter but Cranbourne was unable to significantly narrow the lead at halftime, kicking two goals to one in the second stanza.
By the time Cranbourne had the wind advantage again, the result was just about sewn up, and Cheltenham were finally able to translate the momentum it had into goals, kicking 6.1 in the final quarter.
Ryan Jones was gallant in a losing effort for Cranbourne and provided a late highlight, receiving a handball from Ryan Davey to crisply strike and convert from outside 50.
Two late goals to Austin Johnson summed up the visitors’ supremacy.
The small half-forward took a contested mark in the goal-square from a set shot that fell short, with Cranbourne unable to kill the ball over the line, leading to an easy conversion.
Moments later, he stepped through traffic on the boundary line to give himself a look from close range, which he converted.
William McTaggart’s size in forward 50 was also hard to combat as he finished with four goals.
The result puts Cheltenham two games clear on top of the division one ladder, and has Cranbourne clinging to second spot ahead of St Pauls McKinnon and St Kilda City only on percentage after being the dominant force for the first 10 weeks of the season.
Meanwhile, Dingley’s resounding win over Mordialloc, and Springvale’s loss to St Pauls McKinnon, essentially confirms Danny Ades’ men of a finals spot as the Dingoes sit two games clear inside the top five.
A five goal to zero opening quarter set up the Dingoes who eased to an 81-point victory.
Playing in just his fourth game for Springvale of the year, Collingwood VFL listed Matt Wetering’s return could not help Springvale get over the line over St Pauls McKinnon.
Wetering and Tyrone Vickery kicked two goals each but a big third quarter got the Doggies over the line.
St Pauls McKinnon turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a 23-point three-quarter-time lead with seven goals to one in the third quarter.
Stephen Muller finished with five goals, the seventh time this season he has finished with at least that amount as he lifted his season tally to 61.
Port Melbourne survived a scare from East Malvern, shaking off the gallant Panthers to win by 25 points.
The Colts were up by just five points at three quarter time, before a three goal final quarter ensured victory.
Five goals each for Brendan Fevola and Aaron Edwards helped St Kilda City to a 40-point win over Bentleigh.
The Saints were up by 55 points at the final change with the Demons able to restore some respectability to the final scorecard in the last quarter.
LADDER: Cheltenham 52, Cranbourne 44, St Pauls McKinnon 44, St Kilda City 44, Dingley 36, Springvale 28, Port Melbourne 24, Mordialloc 20, Bentleigh 8, East Malvern 0.
RESULTS: Cranbourne 4.9 33 v Cheltenham 13.25 103, Port Melbourne Colts 11.12 78 v East Malvern 8.5 53, St Kilda City 15.16 106 v Bentleigh 9.12 66, Dingley 18.21 129 v Mordialloc 7.6 48, Springvale Districts 7.11 53 v St Pauls McKinnon 11.9 75.
FIXTURE: Mordialloc v Cranbourne, Bentleigh v Dingley, East Malvern v Springvale Districts, Cheltenham v Port Melbourne Colts, St Pauls McKinnon v St Kilda City.