Raiders take care of Saints

KOONDROOK Barham did as expected of it on Saturday, disposing of the understrength Tooleybuc Manangatang and securing some breathing room in fourth spot.

In a season where no side can afford a lapse in concentration, the Raiders faced a crucial test in a winnable game against the Saints and met expectation after getting on top in the second term.

The Saints were missing key big men Joel Cullen and Ryan O'Sullivan, as well as taking several players into the game despite injury clouds.

Corey Kelly played -- and justified his selection with two goals -- as did Josh Stone, whose performance ranked him among the best and belied concerns about the health of his knee.

Coach Brad Morris also played after missing a few weeks with injury.

By contrast, the only question mark for the Raiders was that of Shane Guerra, who returned following a layoff with an elbow injury.

Jay Reynolds slotted six goals for the home side, to be the game-high forward, while Matt Dean and Rhys Bradley also had impressive outings.

The win ensures that Koondrook Barham continues to push for a double chance in the finals, while the Saints are in the midst of a slump that, if not arrested, might see them fighting for an elimination final spot.

The occasion took some settling for the Raiders on Saturday though, with the Saints making the most of early opportunities to take a slim lead.

The Raiders wasted a few early opportunities, such as when Reynolds' pass inside 50m to Tom Lamb resulted in a dropped mark and a contested ball.

It took composure from young gun Jack Thomas to slot the Raiders' first major and see the home side on its way, with a missed shot from lively small forward Zac Hare also frustrating home fans.

Tooleybuc Manangatang hit the scoreboard for the visitors' first goal before Raiders star Lucas Matthews made the most of a mark in front of goal.

Jay Skate and Reynolds got in on the act to have the home side up before Tooleybuc Manangatang fought back.

When Corey Kelly dobbed one of his two majors the Saints hit the lead and took a two-point advantage to the first break.

The Raiders made the decisive break of the day with four second quarter goals to the Saints' one.

Reynolds converted after a big mark in the goal square, with Frankie Robinson soon responding for the Saints.

McAlpine was looking the worse for wear after a heavy collision with Marc O'Neill, with the Raiders starting to look too strong for the Saints and taking a 17-point lead to the main break.

Rhys Bradley slotted an early major for the Raiders to give them full control midway through the term.

At the final change the Raiders had done enough to have the Saints at arm's length. The three goal lead indicated that the home side, while not totally dominant, was clearly superior on the day.

The margin was not insurmountable, but an upset win seemed unlikely in the context of the match.

Despite this, when the Saints goaled after Narbie Kelly found Corey Kelly early in the term it was only two straight kicks the difference.

Daniel Mowat steadied with a defensive mark for the home side, while Corey Kelly had another set shot from a similar position but missed.

Morris was sent from the field but it was all academic with the Raiders settling and restoring the three goal margin.

A clever snap from Reynolds signaled the home side's chance to celebrate a win, with Saint Steven Lyons and Reynolds adding further majors to the tally.

Raider Harley Burmeister sent a long, searching kick forward in the dying seconds, only for the ball to be touched over the line as the siren sounded to end the day's play.

The final act was symbolic of the game: the Raiders were in control but did not totally dominate the Saints.