SPECTATORS were treated to some thrilling matches in round nine of the Wimmera Football Netball League as crowds were reallowed for the first time since May.
A close-fought encounter at Coughlin Park between Horsham Saints and Stawell Warriors went down to the final seconds, with the Saints eventually winning 11.13 (79) to 11.8 (74).
Horsham Saints coach David Johns said he was delighted with his team's performnce.
"I think it was a good reward for effort today," he said.
"The boys have been threatening to play like this for a while and the first quarter was fantastic. Even though we let Stawell get back into it, to fight the game out the way we did was great."
The Saints started the far stronger of the two sides. They kicked four goals before the Warriors registered a single point, and led 7.5 (47) to 2.1 (13) at the end of the first quarter.
The Warriors alleviated any fears of a rout in the second quarter.
Yet the space and time the Saints had enjoyed in the first quarter disappeared in the second quarter, as the Warriors began to show why they were on top of the table.
By halftime, the Saints had failed to add to their score and had their lead eroded to just 11 points.
The Saints regained some ground in the third quarter, which Johns said played a decisive role in the final result.
"Stawell really controlled every aspect of the game before halftime but we were able to wrestle that back to our advantage," he said.
"When we came in at three quarter time we knew we had the ability to fight the game out and get the win."
But the Warriors started the fourth quarter brightly and within the final 10 minutes managed to take the lead for the first time in the match.
After taking the lead, the Warriors initially showed great composure. They patiently passed the ball across the field, as the final siren grew closer.
However, when the Saints finally regained possession a piece of individual brilliance would unravel the Warriors hard work.
Nicholas Caris claimed a sensational mark in the Warriors defensive 50. Leaping above a pack of players to claim the ball just metres from goal.
Caris converted the chance to help Saints regain the lead and ultimately win the match.
Horsham Demons and Dimboola Roos played out a similarly close match, with the Demons winning 12.8 (80) to 9.11 (65).
The Demons trailed for most of the game but were able to produce a fantastic final quarter where they kicked four goals to the Roos' one.
Rhona Conboy was particularly lethal for the Demons, kicking five goals to be named his team's best on ground.
Southern Mallee Giants gave an imperious performance against Ararat Rats to win 14.10 (94) to 8.4 (52).
The Rats kicked three goals without response in the second quarter to reduce the gap to 13 points. But Ben Webster kicked a goal for the Giants just before halftime to ease the pressure, with his side easing away from that point on.
Elsewhere, Minyip Murtoa recorded a considerable victory over Nhill, with the final score 19.17 (131) to 4.8 (32).
The Warriors' loss means Minyip Murtoa now top the ladder.
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