A SWITCHED on Kerang made an opening-quarter statement on Saturday, booting five goals to set up a win that reestablished it as the team to beat in 2015.
The Blues haven't lost consecutive games since 2007 and started with a clear determination to silence critics after last week's upset loss at Riverside Park to Tooleybuc Manangatang.
To some, the Saints' victory might have heralded the end of an era of Kerang dominance but the Blues sent out a clear signal that they had other ideas at home for the second consecutive week at the weekend.
Kerang went into the game minus Troy Davis and with fitness question marks over Jon Murphy and Ryan Gillingham but with the handy inclusion of star veteran Luke Livingston.
Mallee Eagles missed the creativity of co-coach Tyson Mihocek, while Davis' absence made the Blues' job of containing Eagles ruckman Warren Carlyle that much harder, with Mark Walter rucking most of the day for the home side.
Livingston's inclusion provided a solid target in the Blues' forward half, with the ex-Carlton player taking numerous marks and booting three crucial goals.
Versatile Blue Luke Cotchett also helped himself to three majors, with the pair finishing with the game-high goals tally.
Eagles goal kicker Caine Hillier had a relatively quiet day with two goals for the Eagles, who managed only five majors for the afternoon.
A tight Blues' defence, led by Gregor Campbell and Murphy, was worked overtime most of the afternoon but made life hard for the Eagles forwards.
The game was pretty even in the middle early, with the likes of Marty Kelly and young gun Brady Fordham seeing plenty of the ball, while the physicality of Kerang hard man Lance Picioane was decisive.
But while the midfield battle was even, it was Kerang that was clearly making the most of its opportunities and getting reward for effort on the scoreboard.
Jesse Clark kicked Kerang's first goal on the run from 50m, with Gillingham snapping opportunistically from 20m to make it two in a row.
Troy Thamm joined in the action with a tight snap from 40m, to give Kerang the edge.
Coach Troy Coates and Livingston joined in the action to give the home side a 29-point lead at the first change.
It was the decisive quarter of the match, with the Blues' early running forcing the Eagles to play catch up all day and fortune favouring the brave as the home side showed a willingness to go for goal and create opportunities from virtually nothing on several occasions.
Hillier booted the visitors' first goal five minutes into the second term as the Eagles came at the Blues.
A Livingston miss and a major to Eagle Daniel Bibby gave the visitors consecutive goals, as the town end appeared the scoring end.
A goal to co-coach Bo Alexander got the Lalbert side to within 10 points but a major to Livingston reinstated the Blues' 16 point lead at the 21 minute mark of the term.
The Eagles were close enough at the half, with the 14-point margin more than manageable.
But in a second half that was a war of attrition, it was Kerang that won on points.
Marty Kelly managed a reply to a Livingston major to keep the Eagles within three straight kicks early in the third but the game went into lockdown mode after a Cotchett major, with neither side troubling the scorers for much of the second half of the term.
While the Eagles had the advantage of kicking to the scoring end in the last half hour, the 24-point margin was significant in a low-scoring game and it was clear the Mallee Eagles would have to make the very most of their chances.
Kerang was prepared to make its physical presence felt early in the last term, with Rob Horler coming under some attention from Matt and Troy Coates.
But it was Cotchett that drew first blood for the home side, kicking the first major of the term to give the Blues a decisive 32-point lead at the 7.5 minute mark of the term.
A goal to Bronson Booth put the result beyond doubt at the 13-minute mark, with the Eagles getting a late consolation goal.
The win proved Kerang remains in the front running at the halfway mark of the season, but improvement will be needed.
The Blues should win comfortably at Cohuna next week, while the Mallee Eagles will be desperate to get back on the winners' list against Lake Boga.