RELATED: Maffra overcomes the Maroons
IN a tense finish, Sale held off a strong finishing Warragul by the slightest margin to keep its hold on second place on the Gippsland League football ladder.
The Magpies won at Warragul 13.15 (93) to 12.20 (92), with the Gulls narrowly missing a late winning goal.
Sale small forward Jack McLindin was replaced by under 18 player Jack McLaren because of a knock last week. It was a big ask for McLaren, who had featured in the under 18s game earlier in the day.
Sale controlled play early, but its finishing and kicking skills let it down.
For the Gulls, Nat Paredes was looking dangerous, his ability to win the contested ball and get the ball in tight and forward of centre meant that Sale had to use Adam Wallace in a defensive role.
Warragul created scoring opportunities through Sale’s errors, a late goal to the Gulls saw them close the margin to two points at the first break.
Jordan Dowsett was finding plenty of space on the wing while creating forward entries, but the Magpies could not gain a clear shot on goal.
A goal from advantage was denied and Warragul claimed the lead when it took the ball to the other end and goaled.
Sale wrestled back the lead after a strong effort from Brad Dessent, who shrugged a tackle then handballed out to brother Jordan, who snapped truly.
McLaren was showing effort through the middle with good pressure and composure, while the inclusion of Brad Mckay, back from overseas, saw some overrun and lap come into play.
Jayden Allison goaled late, extending the Sale lead to eight points at the main break.
While the Magpies were in front, they were not playing their best football, and coach Shane Fyfe asked the players to lift their intensity and urged them to lay more tackles and hunt the ball.
Mainly through the work of Jordan Dessent, Sale was gaining the advantage in the middle, but the fumbling around the football, and turnovers from forward entries were hurting.
Warragul was playing with purpose, transitioning at times with waves from the backline and trying to take advantage of key forwards like Brayden Fowler, who was in a tough battle with Andrew Quirk.
When Nic Dowse took an absolute screamer outside 50 before sending the ball in deep for brother Mitch to snap a clever left foot goal, it seemed the spark had gone out of the Gulls, as further goals were to come for the Magpies.
Three goals took the Magpies’ lead beyond 30 points.
To its credit, Warragul came back hard, and if not for wayward kicking and smart defending by Quirk, Nic Dowse, Ben Jones, the 22-point margin at three-quarter-time would have been reduced.
Warragul kicked the first two goals and the contest was on, the margin got to seven points before Jordan Dessent drew a free kick and spotted Jarrod Freeman, who kicked truly.
John Gooch again extended the lead to 19 as he goaled smartly on the run from the boundary.
Sale couldn’t capitalise on forward entries, but its pressure was keeping a surging Warragul at bay.
Warragul kicked two more goals, but it was a big block of points that saw the margin come back to nine.
A point and another goal brought it back to two points.
With under a minute left, Paredes, gained another centre clearance, which saw Jedd Serong take a mark on the angle about 40 metres out, the shot hit the post before Ronchi went down the line to Lipman and then Gooch as the siren sounded.
Jordan Dessent was clearly the best Magpie player, his ability to take a mark, get the ball inside and push hard forward showcased his full class.
Adam Wallace and Jayden Allison gained plenty of possession and won the ball in tight.
Gooch kicked a goal in each quarter to finish with four, while the defensive efforts of Quirk and Nic Dowse in the air and on the ground were terrific.
Chris Laverty showed his experience, playing with solidarity and composure as usual.
Despite the hard fightback, Sale would be relieved to have come away with the victory, and what appeared to be a relatively injury free day.
A blockbuster awaits at Sale as the Magpies tackle Leongatha at home in a clash, with second hosting third.