The North Ballarat Rebels mounted a terrific comeback to steal victory by 13 points over the Gippsland Power yesterday at Eureka Stadium.
After trailing by five goals late in the second term, the Rebels surged back into the contest with a terrific second half performance.
Exciting debutant Daniel Rioli was pivotal in the victory, booting a vital goal late in the final quarter to put the Rebels in front.
Rioli would go on to kick the sealer moments later.
It was a hard-earned victory for the Rebels, who started sluggishly and took time to hit their straps.
Gippsland’s remarkable intensity from the outset appeared to cause problems for the Rebels, as they coughed the ball up under pressure and seemingly lacked the run of previous weeks.
After half time, however, things changed very quickly.
Suddenly, the Rebels were the desperate and imposing outfit that had seen them rise to the top of the TAC Cup ladder.
The key midfield duo of Jacob Hopper and captain Darcy Tucker, who were standout performers for the Rebels in the opening half, were joined by a host of Rebels after the main break.
Defenders Yestin Eades, Connor Byrne and Ben Simpson lifted their intensity and run-and-carry from the backline, while fleet-footed utility Jarrod Berry provided a much-needed spark around the ground.
The move of Tom Taurau to the forward line in the second half also proved an inspired decision, as Taurau would play a crucial hand in several goals late in the game.
In the end, the Rebels simply found a way to win.
Coach David Loader admitted that it was a very satisfying result.
“It was our best win, clearly,” Loader said.
“[It wasn’t] the best game we’ve played, but I think credit has to be given to Gippsland and how good they were in the first half…they’re going to go a long way, in my opinion.
“But our boys’ response in the second half was really pleasing.”
It was an exhausting victory for the Rebels, who had to persevere in a stalemate final quarter to get over the line.
The efforts of Rioli to break the game open late in the term received praise from Loader.
“He’s a great little fella that just loves his footy,” Loader said.
“We’re hoping that Dan will show us how good he can be in the future. It gave us a little more speed up forward and he’s ended up with three goals today, so it’s a nice little start to his career.”
The Rebels are now one win clear on the top of the ladder, having won six games in a row.
They will now be able to enjoy a well-deserved break, due to the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships this weekend, before travelling to Ararat to face the Sandringham Dragons on May 31.
North Ballarat Rebels 0.3.3, 2.6.18, 7.8.50, 11.11 (77)
Gippsland Power 3.2.20, 6.4.40, 8.6.54, 9.10 (64)
NORTH BALLARAT REBELS
Goal Kickers: D. Rioli 3, E. Frank 2, J. Hopper 2, D. Tucker 2, M. Johnston , J. Cowan
Best Players: , J. Hopper , Y. Eades , T. Taurau , J. Webster , J. Berry , B. Simpson
Goal Kickers: T. Papley 4, H. McKay 2, B. Olsson , T. Marsh , C. Ambler
Best Players: , T. Papley , J. Patullo , C. Ambler , N. Holmes , B. Dessent , R. Hearn