By OSCAR PERRI
A dominant start to their Saturday afternoon clash at Traeger Park from the Pioneers, ladder leaders Rovers Football Club looked to have no answers, but found their way back into the game by half time and wound up with a six goal win.
Pioneers midfielders Thomas Swan, Dylan Alice and Marcus Hamilton proved impossible to catch in the middle, using their pace to burst through the centre of the ground and get the ball over the top of the Rovers defenders.
The Pioneer forwards did not put nearly enough of this opportunity on the scoreboard though, only managing four goals in a quarter where they had almost exclusive use of the ball.
At the other end of the ground, Nigel Lockyer Jr gave everything to keep the Rovers in the game, kicking two goals, nearly knocking himself out twice in marking contests, and getting up the ground to help out the midfielders.
The Rovers weren’t able to kick a goal for the first 15 minutes of the game, but found themselves only a goal behind at the first break.
The Pioneers looked the best they had all season without the ball, setting up a zoned forward press that constantly resulted in forward half turnovers.
Swan and Alice were taking the game on, not afraid to take ground and bounce the ball, but again it was failing to result in scoring. Jake Clarke saved numerous goals with last line efforts to bring down Pioneer forwards.
Around halfway through the second quarter the Rover changed tack, and instead of trying to burst through the Pioneers press, they slowed the game right down and focused on making good decisions to pick their way through.
It stemmed the bleeding significantly, as they stopped giving away so many turnovers and spent much more time with the ball at the Rovers’ end of the ground.
Kurt Abbott found his way into the game after a very quiet start, and with six minutes left in the half kicked a goal to put his side up for the first time in the game.
The Pioneers were not going to allow themselves to be buried at this stage, and responded strongly, but two goals in the last 90 seconds of the half to Darcy Sketcher saw the Rovers take a 7 point lead into the main break.
The second half all went the way of the Rovers, Abbott was running the ball through the middle unchallenged, with good support from Sam Dorizzi.
There were no obvious reasons why, but the excellent organisation and pressure from the Pioneers completely fell away.
Aside from Alice, who continued to break lines, they were a shadow of themselves in the first half.
Goal machine Tyson Wood found his rhythm, and he and Lockyer Jr finished with five each for the day. Woods has now kicked 43 goals for his 9 games this season and leads the league.
Rovers remain undefeated and are now guaranteed to finish the season on top of the table.
Final score: Rovers 15.7.97 D Pioneer 9.6.60.