Injuries may have cruelled Horsham and District Football League fans of a finals preview with contenders Harrow Balmoral and Rupanyup battling it out on different levels on Saturday.
The Panthers were fast and strong as they scored 14.12 96 to 3.6 24, but their opposition was undermanned.
Harrow Balmoral senior coach Nick Pekin said their side went into the clash missing a lot of key players through early-season injuries.
"We had a fairly new side today, with eight of our best ten out," he said.
"That doesn't take away from the gallant effort from the guys that came into the senior line-up today, but I just think we were a bit short on fitness and not having any rotations after half-time.
"We blew up and full credit to Rupanyup, they are a well drilled side and they are fit, maybe twice as fit as us, and so it is something we can take out of the game as a positive."
Despite the Ross' first loss in a long time, Pekin is positive and thought here was much his side could take away from the loss.
"Unfortunately we don't play them again for the home and away season, but we can take a lot from it, in terms of what we can work on," he said.
"You have to be positive at the end of the day. You are playing with 20 of your mates and you can take a lot of it and show your character as a new group and work on the little things to improve and get back on the winners list."
Pekin also said he was impressed by the Panthers biggest strength.
"Fitness. Certainly fitness, because some of their side had been playing footy up in Darwin last year so the fitness is there," he said.
"And with a few new inclusions the belief is there they can go all the way.
"They showed a lot of their cards today and we can take a lot out of the game."
Rupanyup will look to continue their winning ways against the Swifts at North Park in round three, while Harrow Balmoral will lick their wounds and try to grab a win against Kaniva Leeor United.
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