A DOMINANT second half saw the Ararat Rats further secure their place in the top three when it defeated the Horsham Saints by 73 points on Saturday.
The home side led by just five points at half-time before managing 13 second half goals to win 16.8 (104) to 4.7 (31).
Rats coach Shane Fisher said his side continued to exceed even his expectations.
“A lot of opposition teams and people outside the club like to talk about how fit our side is,” he said.
“I still thought we were below where we needed to be but Saturday probably changed my mind a little.
“Now it’s more of a reality that we can pencil in a top-three position, there’s still a long way to go but our aims have certainly changed.”
Early in the match it looked as though both teams were prepared to dig in on a cold a blustery day at Alexandra Oval.
The Rats were able to strike first against the breeze before the Saints side managed to hold the ball in its forward line for much of the term.
At the first break both sides had kicked two goals and the Saints had a two-point advantage.
“I thought in that first quarter we worked really hard against the breeze to create a couple of goals,” Fisher said.
“The Saints were able to get quite a few inside 50s but our back six held strong.
“Then in the second the Saints blocked our forward line and we weren’t able to play with much structure – we played it how they wanted us to.”
The ball barely moved into the Saints forward line during the second quarter but the side able to keep Ararat to 1.2 in order to stay within a kick.
Midway through the third quarter the Saints were down to just one on the bench after Will Kennedy copped a heavy hit in his third senior game while captain Alexander McRae had gone down early in the contest.
Small adjustments saw the Rats create more run of their half-back line in order to kick four goals to none against the breeze in the third quarter.
“We played a few more on-ball type players through the wings and put the wingers on the half-back line,” Fisher said.
“I think the ability to do that changed things a little but it was also our hunger to attack the football was fairly evident.”
Daniel Mendes was pivotal throughout the second half as the Rats side built further on its 23-point three-quarter time lead.
The nine-goal final quarter showed just far Ararat has come this seasons as the Saints barely fired a shot only a week after being the first team to defeat the Horsham Demons this season.
The Rats remain four points clear of the third-placed Southern Mallee Giants while the Saints are one win further back.