Stawell made a big play to keep their finals hopes alive at the weekend, recording a season-defining win over Horsham Saints.
The Warriors have been playing a much-improved quality of football in the last month and they continued that on Saturday against the Saints.
Having dropped just one match at Central Park so far this season, the home ground advantage once again proved handy for Stawell.
The two teams were evenly matched going into the contest and the first term highlighted the level playing field of both sides, as both teams booted 5.2 (32) in the opening quarter.
It was after the first break that the Warriors were able to put their foot down, booting four goals to one to hold a crucial 22-point half-time lead. In their first meeting of the season with the Saints, Stawell went goalless after half-time, a feat they were eager not to repeat.
The Warriors won the third and fourth quarters to record a 17.15 (117) to 12.11 (83) victory.
“It was good to get on top early and then run out a four quarters of the game really well,” Stawell co-coach Damian Joiner said.
“We’re a completely different team than we were at the start of the year. We are a lot fitter and the guys have really bought into what Jamie (Solyom) and I are working on.”
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Saints coach Luke Fisher said the Warriors were able to turn the match into a shootout, which does not suit his team.
“We found it hard to go inside 50 and they rebounded very well with great efficiency,” he said.
“High scoring matches like that aren’t ideal for us. If you look at the games where we have beaten the top sides we have kept them to low scores. We just weren’t as defensive as we would have liked.”
It was a big day for a few individuals for the Warriors, with Todd Matthews playing his 250th match and Jackson Taurau returning from injury to play just his second match of the season for Stawell.
“Jack was good. He has still got a bit of work to do but more than held his own at full back,” Joiner said.
“Todd has been a great clubman for his whole career and it was a massive day for him. To get a win like that for him was great.
“Having Jack back also allowed him to push forward and get some goals which was also great to see.”
Ben Davis also played his first senior game for the Warriors, booting two majors.
Angus Gove kicked two majors as best on ground for the Saints while Jackson Dark was solid once again for Stawell.
The win was Stawell’s fifth of 2018, moving right into finals contention.
The Warriors are still in seventh but only percentage separates them from fifth and sixth placed sides Minyip-Murtoa and Warrack Eagles, all on 28 points.
The loss for the Saints sets up a precarious back end of the season, now sitting just one game clear of those three teams with five rounds remaining.
“It is a sign the competition is strong having so many teams competing for finals spots,” Fisher said.