The Burra rallied from 17 points behind at three-quarter time – booting 3.7 to 1.0 in the final term to score a 10.14 (74) to 11.6 (72) win at Whatmough Park.
The result moved the Burra four-wins clear atop the ladder with four rounds left in the home and away season, while Panton Hill slipped to third place – behind South Morang on percentage.
After losing to Panton Hill in their Round 5 encounter, St Mary’s coach Fabian Carelli said it was a vital win for his side heading into the finals series.
“I think mentally it’s big. You can set yourself knowing that you’ve done the job at some point in time. Now we can tick it off and know what we have to do and maybe play our brand for a little bit longer,” Carelli said.
Panton Hill made a fast start in the see-sawing battle, booting five unanswered goals midway through the first term to lead by 17 points at quarter time.
St Mary’s responded with a dominant second term to lead by four points at half time, before the visitors took back the ascendency with a four-goal to one third quarter.
However, it was St Mary’s who finished the game full of running. The Burra took the lead midway through the final term before Rhys Boyden took a strong pack mark and kicked his third goal to push Panton Hill back ahead.
But the ladder-leader was quick to respond, with Jake Dambrauskas getting on the end of a coast-to-coast play and converting from 50m to take back the lead. The Burra were then able to keep their composure in a frantic final five minutes to secure their 12th win the year.
“We needed one back mentally on Panton Hill after the first time when they beat us,” Carelli said.
“Our boys knew that and were up for a big challenge. I think we really responded. That last quarter and the way we went about it to find a way to win was really good.
“Our guys are learning how to grind wins out when maybe last year they lost those close ones, where four or five went the other way.”
Lee Minuz was outstanding in defence for St Mary’s, intercepting many plays and providing rebound for the home side. He was well supported by Leigh Sullivan.
The Burra were also well served by first-gamers Ryan Bowkett and Joel Randall from the Northern Knights. Bowkett kicked three goals from the midfield, while Randall was promising in defence on Matthew Byron and Rhys Boyden.
“They’ve played every Knights game and I was surprised they got released so when the opportunity came I thought we had to play them,” Carelli said.
“I thought Bowkett was outstanding. That’s one of the better debuts you’ll see from a 17-year-old kid.
“Joel Randall held his head high down back. We put him against Byron at times and then Boyden and for a young kid to stand up against two quality forwards was really good.”
Despite not getting the desired result, Panton Hill can take away plenty of positives after again demonstrating its ability to match it with the ladder leader.
Mitch Anderson was superb in defence, while ruckman Nick Parks continued his strong season and Sam Montanaro and John Pritchard found plenty of the ball.
Matthew Byron went down in a marking contest late in the third term and took no further part in the game. The Redbacks will hope to have him back quickly ahead of an important final month of the home and away season.
Final score: St Mary’s 10.14 (74) def Panton Hill 11.6 (72)