North Ballarat Rebels produced a scintillating opening quarter against the Dragons only to watch Sandringham hit the lead in the final 30 seconds of its TAC Cup clash at Eureka Stadium.
The visitors kicked the first two goals of the match in the opening minutes before the Rebels slammed on seven unanswered goals in what coach Gerard FitzGerald described as the blueprint of what the club is trying to do.
However, the highly-fancied Sandringham chipped away at the 29-point half-time deficit to close within two points late in the piece before Kye Beveridge put the Dragons in front with one of the last kicks of the day.
The Dragons victorious 13.9 (87) – 13.5 (83).
Fitzgerald conceded his group went into their shells late in the match but was buoyed by the sides ability to mix it with one of the competitions best sides.
“We’ll learn lessons from these defeats, but we’ll also go away with the knowledge that we can match it with the best,” FitzGerald said.
“The encouraging thing is against a top three team, our game style stood up really well.
“We want to test ourselves against the best. Today for very long periods of time we were better than the Dragons.
“I thought our best football today was a benchmark of what I’m looking for.”
Dynamic forward Jordan Johnston and hard-nosed midfielder Callan Wellings were two Rebels’ that lifted in the absence of key playmakers plying their trade with Vic Country.
Johnston booted seven goals from his 13 touches while Wellings racked up 31 touches and was influential around the stoppages.
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