Not even two goals from former AFL star Ivan Maric could lift the Deni Rams to success against Tongala on Saturday.
In front of a bumper crowd full of excitement at Hardinge St Oval the Blues led all day to take out a 32 point win over the previously fifth placed Rams.
Maric played predominantly in the ruck in his one-off appearance for Deni, before sitting at full forward in the last term, kicking both of his majors after strong marks deep in attack.
It was the visitors who came bursting out of the blocks, kicking 4.3 to Deni’s 1.2 to lead by 19 points at the first change.
The home side kept themselves in touch during the second term, trailing by just 17 points at the main break.
The third is called the premiership quarter and it proved to be an important one for Tongala, putting through five goals to one to hold a match-winning 45 point lead going into the last term.
To Deni’s credit they continued to fight out the game, but the damage was already done.
Cam Ilett was superb for Tongala, as was Coby McCarthy, Adam Lovison and Mark Watson (four goals).
Ricky Gittens (two goals), Nick Howe and John Anstee battled hard for the Rams, while Aiden Free, Will Shaw (two) and Adrian Pappin (one) also impressed.
Final score, Tongala 13.12 (90) to Deni Rams 8.10 (58).
Rams co-coach Sam Hall said it was a disappointing result on what was a big day for the club.
‘‘We definitely hoped for a better performance,’’ he said.
‘‘We were right in the game at half time, but they took it away from us in the third.
‘‘The big difference was our skill level. We didn’t hit targets while Tonny played daring footy moving the ball through the middle of the ground well.
‘‘What was pleasing is that we fought on in the last quarter. It’s easy for a young side to drop their heads in the position we were going into in the last, so it was good that we didn’t drop-off.
‘‘Despite the result it was a great day for the club with Ivan (Maric), Shaun Grigg and Sam Lloyd hanging around after the game.’’
The loss wasn’t the only dampener on the day for the Rams with onballer Todd Gallagher going down early in the first quarter with a knee injury.
Hall was hopeful that the incident wasn’t ‘‘too major’’, with the extent of the injury still unknown.
‘‘Losing Gags (Gallagher) early certainly hurt us. He’s got a good set of hands and is a general in the centre,’’ Hall said.
‘‘We still had the likes of Ricky Gittens and Nick Howe stand up in the middle though so we can’t blame the loss on that.
‘‘Aiden Free tried hard up forward and also ran through the middle and Liam Pitts also did well to shut down Cam Ilett when he went to him in the third term.
‘‘We’ve got a tough draw ahead of us, so we’ll just have to try and knock these games down and hopefully come away with a couple of wins.’’
The Rams will be put to the test again this week with a road trip to take on fifth placed Mulwala.
Deni’s reserves were no match for the Blues, with the visitors picking up a 74 point win.
Final score, Tongala 15.11 (101) to Deni Rams 4.3 (27).
Better players for Deni were Reece Hussey, Michael Farley, Joel Park, John Allitt, Hamish Ross and Logan Ives.