PLAYING North Bendigo on their home turf is a challenge few visiting teams enjoy, with the Bulldogs undefeated at Atkin Street for some years now.
For Heathcote it was a greater challenge as the powerful Bulldogs combinations of recent years have given the Saints some fearful hidings in that time.
From the first bounce the home side showed it was there to play and with ruthless efficiency took control of the game and ran the visitors ragged.
Darcy McLean was working hard to get the ball into the Saints forward zone and the besieged defenders were desperate.
However, North was just too strong and in an emphatic first quarter slammed on 9.6 to Nil.
North continued to dominate in the second term but the Saints runners were beginning to get their hands on the ball and as a result were able to score a couple of goals.
Kai Cavallaro was providing options all around the ground with his strong running and overhead work.
When the siren sounded to end the first half North were firmly in control of the game with an 87-point lead and the Saints’ woes were compounded with the loss of Darcy McLean (hamstring) and defender Dillon Hardy (heavy knock) before the siren.
Despite all of the problems confronting the team after half time the Saints worked hard with a stronger resolve to not allow North to go on another scoring rampage.
In the past the team would have simply accepted their lot but to their credit the players stuck at their insurmountable challenge and restricted the Bulldogs to eight goals while scoring four goals themselves.
Jack Paisley and Louie Piccolo continued their strong form this season and provided the Saints with grunt in and around the packs.
Not only did they provide options for the besieged defenders but their strong tackling ensured the Bulldogs worked for every kick.
Youngster Jack Brooks provided a focal point up forward and finished with four goals, also spending time in the ruck when Jordan Marcroft was resting. Luke Bell was moved onto the dangerous Darcy Richards (4 goals) and he was to keep him to only one goal for the rest of the match.
The siren sounded with the Bulldogs victors by 125 points but the Saints did not drop their heads, fighting it out to the end.
North Bendigo is a powerful and slick combination and would be favourites to take another flag.
We have now played the teams likely to fight out for the flag and we now know what the bar is.
Saturday will give an indication of where the team is as we take on Elmore at Pigeon Park.