EVEN WITHOUT one of its best players, Nathalia Football Club was as strong as ever to punish Tongala by 136 points at Nathalia Recreation Reserve.
Nathalia had a fall from grace in round 12 after dropping to second on the ladder for the first time all year.
A percentage boost at the weekend went a long way in closing the gap between it and Numurkah.
Brodie Ross missed the game on Saturday following a four-week ban in the Murray Football League from the clash against Echuca United.
However, it opened the door for Bailey Bell to shine; the forward producing a lazy nine goals in his best on ground performance.
Nathalia was eager to bounce back from its poor fourth quarter against Deniliquin Rams and came out firing for a nine goals to two opening term.
Tongala on the other hand looked behind the play from the first bounce.
A long list of outs including Jack Monigatti, Mark Watson and Sam Tyler and several other late withdrawals meant the team was lacking in manpower.
Coach Travis Edwards had to call on four under 17 players to play a second game and fill the gaps.
‘‘They all gave a really spirited effort and created some exciting leading options when they went forward,’’ Edwards said.
‘‘We suffered two serious ankle injuries (in the game), but fingers crossed those guys get to play again this season.’’
A one goal first term had them trailing by 49 points at quarter time.
The Blues looked to regroup, but Nathalia’s impressive forward line continued to exploit their undermanned defence by recording six goals to three in the second quarter to blow out the margin to 73 points at half-time.
Both teams kicked truly in the third term with the Blues adding three straight goals and the Purps just as efficient with eight to lead 143-40 at the final change.
With the game well and truly decided, the fourth quarter did little but add salt to the wounds of the Blues as Nathalia ran out the game 30.9 (189) to 8.5 (53).
Dylan Joyce, in his second senior game, kicked four goals for Tongala and Riley Bacon was the only other multiple goal scorer on two.
‘‘Dylan Joyce is a naturally talented youngster,’’ Edwards said.
‘‘He has great skills and held some solid marks up forward.
‘‘He had a 100 per cent goal kicking efficiency on Saturday which is something we haven’t seen much of this season.’’
Jesse Robilliard worked hard to be named best on ground with Nathan Torney, Jordan Souter, Corey Nexhip and Liam Brennan, returning for his first senior game since round three, also named as better players.
‘‘Nathan Torney spoilt really well in defence, then rebounded really hard forward,’’ Edwards said.
‘‘He has a fantastic work rate which with some further development will see him develop into a really great senior footballer in coming years.
‘‘We will focus on improving our defensive efforts and our kicking efficiency in our last four games of this season.
‘‘While we were undermanned, we shouldn’t allow opposition teams to kick so many goals no matter who they are.’’
Tongala hasn’t seen a win since round seven against Rumbalara and has another challenge ahead in Moama.
The main question was how to keep up the motivation of the club to play out the remainder of the year.
‘‘The guys will stay keen and motivated for the remainder of the season,’’ Edwards said.
‘‘They’re a really young and inexperienced group, so getting opportunities to play senior football is really exciting for them each week.’’