ONLY four premiership points separated the Busselton Magpies and the Bunbury Bulldogs prior to the round 10 clash at Sir Stewart Bovell Park on Saturday night.
Four gruelling quarters later and it would be only four points the difference on the scoreboard, with the Magpies prevailing after trailing at every change.
Busselton were not going to rest on their laurels against a Bunbury side that had gathered some momentum since the two sides previous encounter in round one. Busselton had the upper hand on that day, winning by four goals at Payne Park in a hard fought tussle.
The first quarter saw both sides enjoy periods of dominance in possession, yet both failed to capitalise on the scoreboard as the defence from both teams was miserly in not allowing any easy touches inside forward 50.
The intensity remained high throughout the quarter as neither side were able to break through consistently. Only two goals were posted apiece, with Bunbury leading at the first change by the barest of margins, 2.3 (15) to 2.2 (14).
The arm wrestle continued in the second quarter as each side struggled to break the game open and dictate the play.
After an impressive 25 goals from 40 scoring shots the previous week, the forward line for Busselton was below its potent best.
Power forward Leigh Kelly had limited opportunities due to some shrewd tactics from the defence of Bunbury as well as some poor delivery from the midfield.
Mobile centre-half-forward John D’Sylva continued his impressive return from injury, taking many strong marks and making his presence felt throughout the forward 50 for the Magpies. The Bulldogs extended their quarter time lead to one straight kick, 5.5 (35) to the Magpies 4.5 (29).
After such a tight contest in the first half, the game broke open in patches in the third quarter as both sides were able to play some fast, free flowing football.
Busselton co-captain James Price began to find a lot of the ball around half-back and along with hard-running midfielder Louis Davies, they were able to set up many forward thrusts for the Magpies.
As had been the order of the night to that point, Busselton were again unable to finish off their hard work.
Some costly turnovers and poor defensive errors from the Magpies saw Bunbury opening up a game high 17 point lead at the final change, 9.7 (61) to 6.8 (44).
Busselton burst out of the blocks in the final quarter, kicking the first two goals in rapid succession to breathe life into the contest, with the parochial crowd finding voice to help spur the team on.
Reliable defender Kim Harper was switched to the wing late in the third quarter and was able to have an influence as a crucial link up player.
The Magpies hit the lead late in the quarter thanks to a superb mark and set shot from John D’Sylva, leaving the Bulldogs behind by four points after being kept scoreless to that point.
The game was set on a knife’s edge, with players from both sides knowing that any mistake could cost their side victory.
With only a few minutes remaining, ruckman Brent Hall managed to get on the end of a pass after resting in the forward line. He kicked truly to give the Magpies a 10 point lead with not much time remaining.
Bunbury were able to extract the next centre clearance and quickly post their first score for the quarter, giving them hope of tempering Busselton’s comeback.
It was not to be as the siren rang out less than a minute after the next centre bounce, capping off a brilliant come from behind victory to the Magpies, 10.11 (71) to Bunbury 10.7 (67).
Round 11 preview,?see online tomorrow.