NINE goals from Mitch Bennett helped Maffra defeat Sale by 58 points to complete round one of Gippsland League football on Sunday.
In warm conditions at Sale Oval, the Eagles led by eight points at half-time, but kicked away in the second half, booting 12 goals to five to win 19.15 (129) to 11.5 (71).
Best-on-ground Bennett more than made up for the absence of Darren Sheen.
James Huts was strong in a defence, and had a good match-up on Brad Dessent, who kicked three goals for the Magpies.
Kieran Jones was outstanding in the ruck, feeding the ball to midfielders Jack Johnstone and Ed Carr.
Chris Laverty, Brad McKay and Mitch Dowse were part a strong Sale midfield.
Dowse kicked two goals in his first game for the Magpies.
Zac Hurley, Jamie Sweeney and coach Shane Fyfe did well under pressure in defence for Sale. When Maffra had more of the ball during the first half, the Sale back line held strong.
John Gooch and Andrew Quirk made welcome returns to the Sale line-up, having not played last season.
There were promising signs for the Magpies, but the Eagles’ class came to the fore in the second half.
After Michael Coleman, returning to Maffra after a year at Heyfield, kicked the opening goal, the Magpies responded with majors from Lochie Ronchi and Dessent to lead by four points midway through the first quarter.
A goal from Danny Butcher put the Eagles back in front.
Carr handballed to Lachlan Channing, who kicked the ball to Daniel Bedgood for a goal to extend the lead to eight points.
A minute later, Dowse booted a goal for the Magpies after the Eagles failed to clear the ball from defence.
Bennett kicked his first goal to give Maffra an eight-point quarter-time lead.
The conditions allowed for free-flowing footy, with Maffra looking to run hard, while Sale was playing with good intensity.
The margin remained at eight points at half-time, with both teams kicking three goals in the second term, including from Dessent for the Magpies.
Kane Martin kicked the opening goal of the second half, reducing the deficit to three points, before the Eagles kicked the next three, including two from Bennett, to lead by 22 points at the 13-minute mark.
Jack Mapleson kept Sale in the match with his goal three minutes later.
After receiving a 50 metre penalty, Daniel O’Brien kicked a goal late in the quarter, giving Maffra a 25-point lead at the final break. However, Maffra wasted chances to kill off the contest, finishing the quarter with 4.6.
The Eagles put the issue beyond doubt in the fourth quarter, kicking eight goals to three. Bennett added four to his match tally.
The result extends Maffra’s winning streak over Sale to seven matches, and puts the Eagles in front of their rivals overall. In 282 matches since 1901, Maffra has won 140 and Sale 139, with three draws
MOE put in a dominant display to defeat Drouin by 65 points in Gippsland League football.
Finalists last season, the Lions won 16.24 (120) to 8.7 (55) at home on Saturday.
Seven unanswered goals in the third term put the result beyond doubt.
The Hawks, searching for their first win since the 2016 finals, matched the Lions early, trailing by five points at quarter-time.
Four goals to two put the Lions 19 points up at the main break before the hosts picked up a gear in the second half.
With 16 goals from 40 scoring shots, Moe should have won by more.
Recruit Josh Pearce kicked four goals in a best-on-ground performance for the Lions, while Scott Van Dyk and Ash Dugan kicked three each.
TRARALGON returned from Bairnsdale with a 16-point victory on Saturday night.
Connor Ambler stood-out for the Maroons, kicking four goals in the visitors’ 15.12 (102) to 13.8 (86) win.
Leading by six points at quarter-time, the Maroons kicked four unanswered goals in the second term to led by 31 points at the half.
The margin was reduced to 22 by three-quarter-time, before the Redlegs kicked six goals to five in the final term.
Josh Kiss kicked five goals in his first match for the Redlegs, whose best player was Callan McKeon.