Some days, you just have to win ugly.
So it was on Saturday for Werribee, which hung on for a five-point victory over the winless North Ballarat in a nail-biting but error-riddled contest at the new-look Eureka Stadium.
Despite leading all day and taking a 23-point advantage into the final change, the Tigers never looked truly convincing. Each time they threatened to take control of the game – as they did early in the second and third quarters – they allowed the Roosters back into the contest through turnovers and poor decision making.
But it was in the final term that things began to look really shaky for the visitors. With the typically stiff Ballarat breeze at its back in the last quarter, the home side sniffed an opportunity to snatch an unlikely victory, piling on four unanswered goals to close within a kick at the 29-minute mark.
With the ball locked in the Roosters’ forward half, it seemed the sealer was inevitable, and it was only through a free kick that the Tigers were finally able to get a clearing kick before being saved by the siren.
Coach John Lamont didn’t mince words in assessing his side’s performance.
“We just didn’t play well enough and we didn’t play smart enough,” said Lamont.
“Our pressure level at times was really good and then at other times dropped off, so we again lacked a bit of consistency. But we’ve hung on and got the four points, so that’s pleasing.”
Lamont also paid credit to the effort of the home side, which has endured a turbulent time of late thanks to a string of heavy losses and months of speculation about its playing future in the VFL.
“We knew that they would come out really keen early on,” he said.
“They had a bad loss up here last week against Williamstown, their first here this year, so we knew that they’d come out hard.
“Their effort was pretty good, so I’m sure their first win isn’t too far away.”
While it was a largely forgettable day for the Werribee faithful, there were a few bright spots.
Ben Jacobs continued his comeback from injury unabated, racking up the possessions and clearances through the middle to finish as his side’s best player.
The Tigers’ big men also performed strongly, Braydon Preuss putting in another dominant performance in the ruck and Majak Daw providing a big presence up forward with three goals and plenty of strong contested marks.
After a best-on-ground performance against Collingwood last week, Ryley Barrack was again influential down back with his spoiling and intercept marking, while first-year players Louis Pinnuck and Max Augerinos were both impressive in the midfield, pushing forward to hit the scoreboard with two goals and one goal respectively.
The win may not have been overly convincing, but it nonetheless gives Werribee four on the trot and solidifies its position inside the eight heading into the bye.
It was a day of close finishes for the Tigers, with the development team playing out a thrilling draw against Williamstown at Burbank Oval to earn its first points for the year.
The result was bittersweet for the visitors, who put in their best performance of the season and looked to have the game won before a 50m penalty gifted the Seagulls the levelling goal on the final siren.
Matthew Hanson and Michael Sodomaco are both in the selection frame for the VFL State Team’s clash with the WAFL at North Port Oval next Saturday, and a number of Werribee players are set to line up in a practice match against Northern Blues at Preston City Oval on Sunday, but the rest of the playing group will have the chance to freshen up over the VFL bye weekend.
The action will then resume on Saturday, June 3, when the Tigers’ VFL team travels to Beaconsfield to take on Richmond, with the development side set to return to Burbank Oval the following day for another crack at Williamstown.
Peter Jackson VFL
North Ballarat: 1.3 3.9 5.10 9.13 (67)
Werribee: 4.5 6.8 9.9 10.12 (72)
Goals: Majak Daw 3, Nick Larkey, Louis Pinnuck 2, Jason Robinson, Will Fordham, Max Augerinos
Best: Ben Jacobs, Braydon Preuss, Ryley Barrack, Louis Pinnuck, Majak Daw, Max Augerinos
AFL Victoria Development League
Williamstown: 3.1 7.6 9.6 11.8 (74)
Werribee: 2.2 5.6 9.9 10.14 (74)