AFTER an afternoon of arm wrestling with their 2017 grand final opponent, Leitchville/Gunbower emerged from the opening round of the Heathcote District Football Netball League season with a 25-point win against North Bendigo.
For three quarters in warm conditions at Leitchville, spectators witnessed a low scoring but absorbing and, at times, frustrating game where turnovers and sloppy disposal more akin to a practice match prevailed.
Only six goals from the sides at three-quarter time was testament to the pressure applied by the two powerful midfields.
The Bulldogs' recruiting in the off-season appears to have focused heavily on onballers, with the departure of Sam Barnes and Brady Herdman leaving them looking dysfunctional up forward.
Bomber backmen Brad Ladson, Logan Prout and Hoby Bussey spoiled and mopped up attacks with relative ease as the Bulldogs struggled to find a viable target.
At the other end of the ground, the hosts had their own problems as the Bulldogs midfield applied sufficient pressure to impair accurate delivery to a rusty looking Matt Perri.
Cricket commitments have meant that the 2017 century goalkicker had not had the benefit of a practice match to re-tune his accurate kicking and with the likes of Matt Ladson, Matt Pollock and captain Daniel Couwenberg under extreme pressure when delivering forward, the maestro could only conjour a solitary goal by the last break.
This was indeed remarkable as the Bombers had sustained periods in total control of the ball – Mitch Bruns and Daniel Coates, along with Logan Prout, had plenty of possession, which normally translates into scoring opportunities .
The brightest spark though for the Bombers in the midfield war of attrition came in the form of debutant Lincoln Sieben, with the youngster adept at running hard and finding space to provide a link in many passages of play.
The latter stages of the third term saw the Bombers gain the ascendancy in terms of general play and new coach Michael Pilcher - who had worked hard in the ruck nullifying ex-Kerang player Troy Kelm - was confident that his side only needed to lift their kicking efficiency and the game would turn further their way.
The game indeed turned – North Bendigo kicked two goals in the first five minutes of the last term to open up a relatively large lead of nine points and looked to have their tails up.
Stung into action, the Bombers rallied and with recruit Jack Gleeson running through a tiring Bulldog midfield, began to create numerous scoring opportunities - most of them behinds.
Tim Lincoln scored the first of five last-quarter Bomber goals, followed by Pollock, whose goal at the 13-minute mark gave the lead back to the home side.
From there the Bombers peppered away – Perri taking advantage to kick the final three goals of the game to finish with a haul of 4.6, with the Bombers kicking a staggering 5.14 for the term.
With the first challenge of the new season ticked off, the Bombers head to Elmore on Saturday, with the Bloods heading into round two following a large opening round defeat against Colbinabbin.