SWFL premiership contenders Bunbury and South Bunbury dished up one of the games of the season on Sunday afternoon at Payne Park.
There might have been gloomy skies for the majority of it, however Bunbury’s thrilling 11.10 (76) to 11.9 (75) win over the Tigers was anything but bland or boring.
Heading into the clash, both sides and spectators expected a close game — along with attaining a true barometer of where both sides are at.
Although the Bulldogs were rock solid and impressive in victory, the Tigers faithful are unlikely to be too disheartened with the final outcome, given the fact their side did plenty of things equally well.
The home side was dealt a blow prior to the clash, with Hayward Medal contender Dylan Heasman ruled out of the game due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, while reliable defender Jacob Wintle was also unavailable.
Despite the absence of both men, the Bulldogs began brilliantly, with electric forward Patrick Farrant kicking his side’s first goal inside the opening four minutes.
With Bulldogs coach Jamie Nani urging his team on from the boundary line, Bunbury appeared to have found some rhythm, which made it difficult for some of the South Bunbury playmakers to make their mark on the game.
However the Tigers, who many believe are Bunbury’s biggest threat to the Bulldogs’ premiership success, responded positively, with a late goal to Jordan Strahan keeping them in touch at quarter time.
A simmering element of niggle between both teams eventually surfaced in the second term and South Bunbury appeared to handle it better.
The Tigers slammed on four unanswered goals in the space of 12 minutes, which put them two goals up heading into half-time. As was the case at quarter time, a late goal — this time to Bunbury’s Scott Doncon — sliced the lead.
With the lights not switched on until midway in the last term, the heavy sky added to the intriguing battle going on in front of a huge crowd.
Both sides essentially went goal for goal throughout most of the second half, before South Bunbury had two opportunities to hit the front in the shadows of time-on, but missed them both.
In a thrilling final minute, the Tigers poured numbers forward in a bid to win the game, however the Bulldogs’ ability to play smart situational football ensured they locked the ball down and finished with the Dale Alcock Homes South West WA Day Derby trophy.