Kyabram’s 25-game winning streak was hanging by a thread yesterday.
A touch more class from Tatura and the Bulldogs would have pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Goulburn Valley League history.
Jamason Daniels’ Dogs were brave, but the experience of Kyabram won out and the Bombers escaped by four points in a thriller.
Not even Kyabram fans would have begrudged Tatura walking away with the four points, such was the visitors’ commitment to the contest and their willingness to outwork the Bombers.
No team had scored more than five goals against the reigning premier in the first four games this season — Tatura had six early in the second quarter.
The Dogs were hot and switched on and Kyabram was playing like a shadow of itself.
Tatura got out to a 23-point lead before the Bombers decided they had to wake up or else they could lose their first game since the 2015 grand final.
It wasn’t pretty, but Paul Newman’s side gradually wore down the lead and finally took it 11 minutes into the third quarter.
From there it seemed like at any moment the Bombers would go to another gear and tear away from Tatura.
It didn’t happen.
Even when Kayne Pettifer put the home side 17 points clear with about five minutes to go, nobody could have seen the Dogs coming again.
They did, through some outstanding work at ground level by James Sullivan to kick two goals in as many minutes.
The clock was Kyabram’s ally, as Dogs players slumped to the ground realising just how close they had come to taking down the champion.
Kyabram’s rooms post-game almost felt like a loss, that’s how poorly the Bombers felt they had played compared to their usual lofty standards.
‘‘It’s not so much like a loss, but we spoke last year about the ability to win ugly games,’’ Newman said.
‘‘It’s a reminder that we take nothing for granted, we’ve got to tick all the boxes because we had a lot of guys down today and we just have to move forward and be better for the experience.
‘‘We pride ourselves on our defence and even though they kicked 11 goals against us today, they kicked four in the first quarter as a result of mistakes in the middle of the ground.’’
There were no real standouts for Kyabram, although Nick Coulstock continued his rise back up the ranks with a polished performance, Kyle Mueller was dangerous again up forward and Rhys Clark had another trademark game out of defence.
A real low point for the Bombers was an ankle injury to midfielder Liam Ogden and star utility Jason Morgan suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury he sustained three weeks ago against Rochester.
The pair will be in doubt for this coming Saturday’s blockbuster at Seymour against the Lions, who are also undefeated.
For Tatura, it was an incredible turnaround from its previous game two weeks earlier when it was upstaged by a young and hungry Shepparton United side.
The Dogs learned their lesson from that one and came out breathing fire, led by an exceptional performance from veteran big man Paul Kirby.
The dual premiership star at Tatura almost retired at the end of last season, but went another year and put in a powerful effort against Bombers ruckman Jake Reeves, who is about 15 years his junior.
Sullivan was classy up forward, making the most of his chances, while Andrew Ciavarella did some nice things in his first game in his former club.
Linc Wellington, Chris Ryan and Sean Martin all worked tirelessly.
Kyabram 2.1 6.2 10.2 12.3 (75) d
Tatura 4.0 7.0 9.0 11.5 (71)
Oliver Caffrey’s best
Kyabram: Nick Coulstock, Rhys Clark, Kyle Mueller, Jordan Williams, Zac Norris
Tatura: Paul Kirby, James Sullivan, Andrew Ciavarella, Chris Ryan, Sean Martin, Jaydan Thewma, Linc Wellington
Kyabram: Kayne Pettifer 5, Kyle Mueller 4, Brad Edwards, Nick Coulstock, Lachie Smith
Tatura: James Sullivan 4, Linc Wellington 2, Chris Ryan, Luke McGill, Jaydan Thewma, Chris Ryan, Zavier Ballis