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STRATFORD began its premiership defence in emphatic fashion, inflicting Lakes Entrance with a 65-point hammering in the opening round of East Gippsland football.
After unfurling their premiership flag at Stratford on Saturday, the Swans won the grand final rematch 19.9 (123) to 9.4 (58).
The Swans were well served up forward by Jacob Bennett and Rodney O’Keefe who both bagged four goals, along with Hayden Erfurth and Nick French who scored three each.
Work by Nathan Pollard, Regan Tait, Lachlan Heywood and Lewis Bolton in the middle of the ground had a major bearing on the result.
Despite kicking against the breeze, the Swans dominated the first quarter, kicking six goals to one.
An O’Keefe kick set-up Erfurth’s opening goal four minutes in. A minute later, Bennett gave the Swans a 13-point lead.
The Swans were controlling the midfield, with the Seagulls unable to get the ball forward.
It wasn’t until the sixth minute that the ball entered the Seagulls’ forward 50, and the visitors made good use of it, with coach James Gibbs booting what would be their only goal of the term.
Stratford immediately responded with a goal before Tim Hawkins increased the margin to 19 points.
Bennett kicked his second goal after drifting into open space in the forward line unattended.
Bolton marked a Lakes Entrance kick and send the ball to Erfurth, who set-up Bennett’s third goal.
The Swans led by 33 at quarter-time, with the margin increasing to 40 by the main break.
Gibbs, the focal point for the Seagulls in attack, kicked his side’s second goal early in the second term.
French restored the Swans’ 33-point lead with a goal after playing on from a free kick, before Gibbs kicked his third for Lakes.
Midway through the quarter, O’Keefe gathered the ball from a boundary throw-in, avoided his opponents and kicked a smart goal. O’Keefe had another goal soon after.
Back-to-back goals gave the Seagulls a glimmer of hope in time-on before French kicked another major for the home side.
Erfurth took a mark inside the boundary. His kick for goal was made easier when he received a 50-metre penalty after his opponent gave him a shove.
The goal after the siren virtually put the result beyond doubt.
Stratford continued its dominance in the second half, scoring eight goals to four to send a strong message to the rest of the competition.
Gibbs played a lone hand in attack for the Seagulls, scoring five goals, while Koby Sellings, Josh Piper and Jason Puruntatameri battled hard.
Beau Mynard, Cohan Lee, Jack Bacon, Gavin Bickery, Liam Lemon and Josh Kiss were absent from the Swans’ line-up.
A scare went across the ground when Virgil Puruntatameri had a heart attack. He was taken to a Melbourne hospital, and according to the Seagulls’ Facebook page, is progressing well.
– with Liam Durkin