AFTER two consecutive sub-standard performances, the Gippsland Power returned to a more effective brand of team football when it recorded a solid victory over the Northern Knights.
Josh Scott kicked five goals in the 13.19 (97) to 10.11 (71) win.
The Power was strengthened by the return of eight players with Alex Saunders, Josh Cashman, Jordie Cunico, Bohdi Walker, Jack Leslie and Jake Thomas back from state duties, while Christian Bukyx-Smith and Aaron Heppell were available after being injured.
Added to this impressive list of quality players was the inclusion of rookie Mitch Stanlake for his TAC Cup debut.
In testing conditions at Morwell, the Knights exploited some indecisive Power defence to take an early lead. The Power hit back with a good goal from Jake Thomas after some hard work by Lachie Channing.
The Knights responded after a free kick and 50 metre penalty and then extended their lead with another after a Power turnover due to further poor decision making.
It took a penetrating kick by Cunico to allow Saunders to snap a clever goal and then some intense forward pressure resulted in another goal from Declan Keilty.
By the first change the Power led by one point but should have been much further ahead based on the pattern of general play. They had twice the number of forward 50 entries to the Knights but had wasted many opportunities with sloppy finishing.
This inefficiency had cost them the game against the Bushies last week and coach Nick Stevens had lots to discuss at the quarter time break.
Things got worse early in the second term as the Knights scored the first goal to remind the Power that they were prepared to exploit any flaws in their levels of application.
Some impressive hard work by Liam Nash and Ed Morris allowed Josh Scott to open his account and then Leslie kicked a long bomb after further pressure resulted in a turnover by the Knights. Instead of building on this more effective play, the Power began to waste hard-won scoring opportunities.
Late in the quarter some long and direct forward play by Scott and Alex Carr allowed Morris to score a crucial goal but the Knights hit back with a telling major after the siren for half time.
The Power had extended its lead to 12 points but had again been very wasteful compared to the more efficient Knights who had seven less forward 50 entries to the Power.
It was the Knights who took the early initiative in the third term and they quickly had two goals on the board after some poor play by the Power.
Once again the Power were wasting its own scoring opportunities and the Knights added to their woes by scoring another against the run of play.
Midway through the quarter the Knights had the Power on the back foot but, some good work by Morris set up Scott for a timely Power reply.
With the game up for grabs, Saunders wove some of his special magic to allow Scott to snap his second for the term.
It was the Power who regained the initiative after some excellent forward pressure and more effective ball use and Scott was again able to finish off the work with a vital late goal.
By the final change the Power had a 17-point lead after trailing earlier in the term and seemingly had seized the momentum from the determined Knights. It had applied some intense forward pressure with more than 10 tackles inside 50 and had finally begun to kick goals.
The conditions had made it tough on all the players and the relative fitness of both sides was going to be a key factor in the last term.
The Power was under the pump due to some more wasteful forward play and had allowed the Knights to be in a far too competitive position. They had had twice the number of forward 50 entries to the Knights and 13 more scoring shots but still only led by just under three goals.
It took some more excellent forward pressure to allow another goal from the Power “go to” man Scott but the Knights hit back hard with a critical goal to apply pressure to the Power. As if inspired by this, the Power used some fine vision and skill to set up Keilty to snap a telling goal.
But, once again the Knights responded by exploiting some lazy Power defence on the rebound.
It was now crunch time and the Power really lifted their work rate to initially stop the turnovers and then set up more effective scoring opportunities themselves.
Morris went long and direct into the forward line and Saunders kicked the match winner after cleverly reading the play and snapping truly. Tom Muir then took the ball and used Keilty to set up a “give and go” before he found Morris who kicked another fine team goal.
The Power now has a week off for a scheduled TAC Cup bye. Some of the key players will be involved in more state football but the majority of the squad will have a week off to aid their rehabilitation from what has been an intense season.
The boys will be tested in their next TAC Cup game against the North Ballarat Rebels as several of the side’s stars will be required to play for their state in Adelaide.