Despite a spirited second half fightback, Bairnsdale fell by 31 points to Gippsland League ladder leader, Sale, in a Sunday blockbuster a City Oval, further limiting its chances of playing finals.
Signs were ominous in the first half – Sale kicked the opening four goals and led by 48 points at the long break before the tide turned in the third quarter.
Bairnsdale slammed on six goals to two to get within 29 points, however Sale was able to absorb the pressure in the final term and hold on.
Callan McKeon led the fightback for Bairnsdale, being clearly the best player on the ground for the second half, while up forward Nic Bulmer kicked two third quarter goals and Nathan Dennison was dangerous out of the goalsquare, forcing contests and finishing with three majors.
The Bairnsdale midfield was outclassed early however fought back and won the second half thanks to McKeon, Tomm Bryan, Matt Corbett and Shaun Wyatt.
However, despite a strong fightback, Sale showed the poise of a team headed to September.
Jarrod Freeman kicked the opener for the Magpies at the three-minute following swift transition off half back.
Two minutes later Brad Dessent outmuscled Ricky Tatnell on the goal line as John Gooch sent Sale deep.
Kane Martin added to Sale’s fast start and by the seven-minute mark held a 17-point lead.
The Magpies were extremely clean by hand at the centre clearance, Martin, Jordan Dessent and Will Leslie showing a clean set of heels.
Bairnsdale had to be patient when it attacked as Sale set up quickly.
That structure set up a second for Freeman as a Redlegs turnover opened up the Magpies’ attacking 50 at the 12-minute mark, Sale proving lethal on the spread.
Bairnsdale finally had a major when and opportunistic Ethan East gathered at ground level at centre half forward, snapping from long range at the 24-minute mark to cut the deficit to 19.
The Redlegs’ pressure had lifted, as did its skill level as it stemmed Sale’s flow.
The Magpies punished Bairnsdale for a lack of accountability on the rebound over the opening 20 minutes, however it was a 50-50 affair through red time.
Brad Dessent scored his second and third goals at the seven-minute mark of the second term to extend Sale’s lead to 30, both coming from set shots after Bairnsdale had battled hard to create scoring opportunities in the opening five minutes.
It was starting to get ugly for the Redlegs when Jack Lipman drilled a set shot at the 11-minute mark. Sale’s lead was out to 37 and the visitors were only picking up the pace.
Bairnsdale finally responded through a hard-working Dennison at the 15-minute mark, who helped create a turnover before gathering the loose ball and snapping successfully.
However that hard work was undone as 50-gamer, Daniel Preston, gifted Freeman another with a 100m penalty taking the Sale forward from the wing to the goalsquare. The lead was back out to 37 at the 18-minute mark.
Freeman added his third from another set shot followed by a long John Gooch snap and the lead was out to 49 at the long break.
Nic Bulmer who had been a consistent performer in the opening half kicked a long goal early in the third term.
When Russ Cowan broke from centre wing, Bulmer nailed a long shot from the clubrooms pocket.
Shaun Wyatt then marked strongly 30m from goal and Bairnsdale had three goals inside seven minutes.
Just as the tide was turning, Kane Martin nailed a set shot from 50m to restore the 39-point advantage.
Link Robinson hit back on the run and Bairnsdale, which was playing instinctive football, was slowly clawing back the deficit.
The Redlegs were all over the Magpies at the midpoint of the quarter. Callan McKeon forced a turnover at half forward, won a ground ball and put the ball in space for Dennison to kick his second and the deficit was 28.
Sale responded through Cooper Whitehill after a midfield turnover at the 23-minute mark and the Magpies had eased the pressure.
Josh Wykes got one back for the Redlegs prior to the three quarter time siren and the margin was 29 points heading into the final term.
Bairnsdale was the far superior team in the third quarter, kicking six goals to two as it gave itself a slim chance.
Corbett found Dennison on the lead in the opening minute of the final term, the small forward who was playing out of the goalsquare drilling the set shot to cut the margin to 23.
Bairnsdale kept coming, but was unable to find the big sticks.
Freeman effectively ended the contest at the 20-minute mark when he marked and goaled from close range.
Brad Dessent added another three minutes kater before Bairnsdale young gun, Byron Vickery, had the final major of the match.
PICTURED: Bairnsdale’s Josh Wykes send his side into attack during its loss to Sale in round 11 of the Gippsland League at City Oval on Saturday.