Werribee has seen its finals hopes take a big hit with a 29-point loss to the Northern Blues at a rain-soaked Preston City Oval on Saturday.
Coming off consecutive losses, the Tigers were looking to steady their ship and reclaim a spot in the top eight with a win over a Blues outfit that had won just one of its last nine matches.
But while Werribee managed to play much of the game on its terms, bringing far superior tackling pressure and often making better use of the muddy conditions in the middle, it too often failed to take its chances in front of goal.
In the end, both the scoreboard and the final inside-50 count of 57-43 in the Tigers’ favour told a tale of missed opportunities.
When Tom Gribble drilled a running goal at the 11-minute mark of the third term, Werribee had had eight more scoring shots than its opponent but led by just the same number of points.
It was the Tigers’ first goal from six attempts across an opening to a quarter they had dominated, and it looked to be the breakthrough they needed to finally start capitalising on their ascendancy.
Instead, it proved the catalyst for a momentum shift that saw the Blues catch fire with seven goals in 12 minutes to effectively ice the contest by the six-minute mark of the final term.
On a tough day for the Tigers, Matt Hanson was again a standout, earning best-on-ground honours for his work in the middle.
His 30 disposals included 19 kicks and nine clearances, which, along with the work of Will Fordham (26 disposals and five second-half clearances), went a long way towards ensuring his side broke even at the stoppages despite the dominance of Blues big men Matt Korcheck and Daniel Gorringe in the ruck.
Matt Munro was the best of the Werribee forwards, booting three goals on a day where they were hard to come by, while Ryley Barrack and Kurt Aylett proved crucial to the Tigers’ drive out of defence.
In their VFL debuts, Charlie Bance and Brydan Hodgson both put in solid performances, finishing with 14 and 10 disposals respectively.
Now sitting in 10th place, Werribee remains a mathematical possibility of a top-eight finish but will need a lot to go its way over the final round of the season.
For starters, victory over the fourth-placed Casey Demons at Casey Fields on Saturday night is essential, but it will also need Port Melbourne to prevail over Collingwood on Saturday morning and for Box Hill to beat the Blues on Sunday afternoon.
Werribee: 2.8 4.9 5.15 10.16 (76)
Northern Blues: 3.2 5.6 9.6 16.9 (105)
Werribee: M. Munro 3, T. Gribble 2, J. Corbett 2, L. Hansen, L. Thomas, B. McKay
Northern Blues: A. Gallucci 4, N. Graham 3, D. Gorringe 2, D. Stevens 2, K. Declase, M. Korcheck, L. Sumner, T. Wilson, K. LeBois
Werribee: M. Hanson, K. Aylett, J. Anderson, M. Munro, R. Barrack, W. Fordham
Northern Blues: N. Graham, T. Wilson, S. Russell, C. O'Shea, D. Gorringe, A. Gallucci