WFL - The Ararat Rats have snapped a three game losing streak with an emphatic 75-point victory over Nhill to jump back into third position on the Wimmera Football League ladder.
The Rats improved their record to five wins and three losses at the halfway mark of the season and will head into next week's bye with renewed confidence.
Joint-coach David Hosking was pleased with the 19.9 (123) to 7.6 (48) victory over the Tigers, but said the team knows it must continue to improve as a finals' appearance looms large.
"It is always good to win and I suppose it is very nice to win when you don't play particularly well, but we were still below our best and that's not me being negative or nit picking I think most of the players would agree," he said.
The match at Davis Park opened with high intensity as both teams tried to gain early ascendancy.
Kicking against a strong breeze, Liam Cavanagh hit the scoreboard first for the Rats, followed by another major to young-gun Tom Williamson.
Nhill was quick to respond with three successive goals, before a long bomb from Beau Cosson squared the ledger by quarter time.
"I guess the only concern was that we had got away to a bright start again, being two goals to none and then the next thing you know they kicked three in a row," Hosking said.
"It is a minor worry that we seem to be starting games out okay, but then letting teams back in during the latter part of the quarter.
"It is not alarm bells, just something we need to be mindful of."
The Tigers put their nose in front with a major in the opening minute of the second term before Ararat was sparked into action, booting nine of the next 10 goals to all but seal the match by halftime.
Defender James Hosking provided the highlight of the day early in the second quarter, sneaking forward to kick a rare goal from deep in the pocket.
Jacob Bates was also lively during the term setting up a number of scoring shots, while Rats' captain Alan Batchelor showed plenty of grit after recovering from a heavy knock in the first quarter.
"We are really starting to see Alan play some good footy and play footy the way Andrew and I want him to," Hosking said.
"He'll get a knock and just get up and keep going he is as tough as old boots."
The only damper on Ararat's 46-point halftime lead was injuries to key playmakers Aaron Searle (hip) and Jack Ganley (ankle), which left the visitors to one rotation on the bench for the second half.
Hosking said it was a gutsy effort from his team to run out the match with two men down.
"I wasn't unhappy with the second half, but I wasn't overly thrilled either," he said.
"It sort of descended into a dog fight really, they became a little bit undisciplined and were trying to upset us and I think at times we let them do that.
"It (reduction in rotations) has an effect and certainly when you take two of your prime movers in Ganley and Searle off the ground."
Hosking said the Rats didn't make the most of their opportunities, particularly in the third quarter when Nhill was reduced to 16 men on the field after two of its players received yellow cards.
It was a much stronger final term for Ararat, kicking five goals to the Tigers' one.
The dominant finish included two majors from midfielder Dan Mendes, who claimed the Wilf Dickeson medal for a second time this season.
Hosking waxed lyrical about Mendes' ability to float forward and have an impact on the scoreboard after he ended with an equal game high of three goals.
"He has been doing it all year and if you look at the stats, the goals he has kicked this season is now into double figures (10) so to have a goal kicking midfielder like that is massive," he said.
"He works harder than anyone else and just continues to push himself."
Tom Williamson, who finished with two goals, was among Ararat's top performers and looked more settled in just his second senior match, while regular contributors Brady Miller and Peter Thompson were reliable as always in the backline.
Hosking said the break has come at a good time for his team and is hopeful of regaining a number of players for the Stawell match in a fortnight, with the aim of consolidating third spot on the ladder in the coming weeks.
"Mendes actually articulates it very well he says we have to lock down this second half of the season," Hosking said.
"We'd really like to try and finish in the top three, that gives you the best chance.
"After we come back from the bye I'd hope that Williamson, Cronin, Phillips, Zander Laidlaw, those blokes will all come into contention and the ones that have had little niggles the break will just give them a chance to freshen up."