The Ballarat Red Devils delivered a thumping blow to Whittlesea Ranges on Saturday, sending home eight goals against the promotion hopefuls in a fiery clash which saw three Whittlesea players sent off.
With a place in the conference top two on the line, the hosts had plenty to play for, however it was the Red Devils who were able to assert their dominance early.
Coming off the back of a frustrating loss to cellar-dwellers Bendigo, the Reds were keen to make amends.
Youngster Dejan Mitrovic was the first to strike after just six minutes, nutmegging Whittlesea keeper Abdulkerim Koc after taking advantage of a poor backpass.
Koc was given more reason to be frustrated 10 minutes later when Pat Karras cleverly chipped the ball home following a classy lobbed pass from Michael Trigger.
Soon after Karras doubled his tally, this time getting on the end of a Charlie King pass as the Reds shot ahead to a three-goal lead before the 20-minute mark.
While Whittlesea was able to get on the scoreboard in the 35th minute thanks to some sharp shooting by George Slefendorfas, their hard work came unstuck moments later when Naum Sekulovski was given a straight red card for handling the ball, awarding Trigger with a penalty.
Things looked as though they could boil over moments later when Koc headbutted Trigger after he had converted the penalty, earning himself a red card to reduce Whittlesea to nine men heading into the break.
The hostilities continued early in the second half, with Liam Harding being stretchered from the ground after a wayward challenge from Slefendorfas.
Despite tensions running high it was again the Reds who were able to compose themselves, with Trigger slotting his second goal for the afternoon in the 65th minute before Jake Francis added to the tally to make it 6-1.
Karras rounded-out his hattrick on the 83rd minute, while Brandon Launton joined the party minutes later to complete the emphatic 8-1 scorecard.
A second yellow card to Whittlesea captain Slefendorfas would see the Ranges reduced to eight before the final whistle was blown.
Red Devils coach James Robinson said he was proud of the way his charges were able remain focused on the task at hand amidst the hostilities.
“We knew they needed to win so the challenge for us was to not buy into anything and keep looking to our process and keep emotion out of it,” Robinson said.
“It shows great character from our players not to buy into the variables.”
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