Dominance at an end

By Meg Saultry

It was a formidable streak that saw Benalla beat Tatura in every one of its home games at Benalla Showgrounds since 2010, a run that stretched across six matches.

But Benalla’s continued dominance at its home ground came to an end on Saturday, when the Bulldogs withheld a late Saints comeback to prevail by 15 points in the 9.8 (62) to 10.17 (77) contest.

It was Benalla’s first half of footy that left plenty to be desired, with the Saints failing to counter the Bulldogs’ pinpoint use of the wing and corridor.

‘‘It was probably our skills that let us down,’’ senior coach James Martiniello said.

‘‘We turned the footy over too often to a quality side.

‘‘That was probably the biggest thing we changed after half-time.

‘‘We started getting our hands on the footy, and that brought the contest back.

‘‘But it was too late in the game to get our act together.’’

With Benalla trailing Tatura by 24 points at half-time, the Saints looked more like the finals-bound team they have been when at their best, and goals to Brody Webster, Cody Crawford and Mitch Exton in the third term saw the Saints get within seven points of the Bulldogs.

But a sniff of a win wasn’t enough to stop Tatura from holding its 14-point lead at three-quarter-time, with the margin staying around the same mark by the final siren.

Unfortunately Benalla was without the polish of one of its most important midfielders, with Will Martiniello a late out with injury.

But brother James said that didn’t contribute to the end result.

‘‘Obviously we missed him through the middle, a player of that quality and we had to shuffle some players around,’’ Martiniello said.

‘‘But we should be able to cover those players, we’re bigger than that. We need to find a way to win without them.’’

Players who impressed in the loss were Patrick Warner, who was named best afield on the wing, and Riley Moran who adapted well in a new role.

‘‘Pat’s run was really good. He was creative and opened the game up on the wing, and provided an option for us,’’ Martiniello said.

‘‘And Riley played a different role in the midfield.

‘‘He was really good, along with his defensive running and hard work to get back to help out.’’

Down in the Saints’ forward line it was the same story as in recent weeks, with Brody Webster again dominant in front of goals with his five majors.

‘‘We’ve been super-happy with Brody,’’ Martiniello said.

‘‘But it’s not just his goals and marks, it’s his tackling too.

‘‘There was a holding the ball decision that resulted in him getting a goal.

‘‘But we also need to be starting to get our other forwards in to help, so it’s not just Brody.’’

With the season officially at the halfway mark, the Saints will travel to Mooroopna next round.

‘‘We’re focused on what we do well — really aggressive sharp ball movement.’’

Benalla will go into the match as the heavy favourite, but Martiniello said his side would not be complacent when it lined up against the Cats.

‘‘We don’t want to underestimate them; they pushed Seymour to one point, and beating Mansfield in Mansfield is impressive,’’ he said.

‘‘So we won’t be underestimating them.’’

Final score: Benalla 9.8 (62) lost to by Tatura 10.17 (77)

Goals: B. Webster 5, P. Warner, C. Crawford, M. Exton, J. Wolff.

Best: P. Warner, R. Moran, N. Warnock, B. Webster, D. Mennen, B. Uebergang.